España Spring 2020 as Texts: Marissa Rodriguez

Marissa Rodriguez is a junior at FIU majoring in psychology and minoring in business. She has a passion for photography and has a dream of pursuing it professionally. One thing Marissa enjoys most is connecting with people of all cultures, and she hopes to make an impact with her photography to those who view her work.

Vizcaya as Text

Photo by Marissa Rodriguez (CC BY 4.0)

“Old world Glamour” by Marissa Rodriguez of FIU at Vizcaya Museum and Gardens

Vizcaya is a Miami attraction that one cannot miss, especially if you are fascinated with old European architecture and design like I am. One of my prior experiences going to Vizcaya was on a photography workshop, where we did a brisk walk-through of the house, but mainly spent time wandering through the beautiful maze of gardens that blanket the back of the property.

This trip was totally different. On this trip, not only were we there with the class and got to hear the lecture about the history and reasons behind the architectural and design decisions, but I found myself vastly immersed in the interior, and appreciating all of the details, both large and small, that adorn the house. From sculptures of ancient Greek and Roman deities to carvings of cherubs and other figures on the doors, I was in love. It was if I had been visiting the house with a fresh set of eyes and a new mindset, like it was my first time all over again. That feeling isn’t something that is always possible, and I find I appreciate every little detail even more every time I come. From the still Islamic fountains that represent such deep and meaningful things like the heavens reflecting on Earth, to “J’ai dit” being a play on James Deering’s name. There is so much lore and stories behind even the simplest things, that you discover something new with every visit.

As someone who is fascinated with world cultures and history, I believe Vizcaya is a beautiful display of what happens when multiple cultures from different parts of the world come together in perfect harmony to create something so unique, beautiful and grand. This place is somewhere I would definitely bring friends and family to, showering them with all of my new knowledge.

MOAD as Text

Photo by Marissa Rodriguez (CC by 4.0)

“Histories of two times” by Marissa Rodriguez of FIU at Museum of Art and Design

The Museum of Art and Design is located inside of Miami’s famed Freedom Tower, across from the American Airlines Arena. As a granddaughter of Cuban immigrants, this place means a lot to me, and it hits home. It reminds me of what my grandparents and their peers went through when they arrived in America, fleeing the dictator-run Cuba while they still could. The exterior of the building and the architecture is beautiful and ornate, as it is decorated in the Baroque and Mediterranean revival styles. Inside the museum, there are columns carved with fruits and faces, to represent the fruits of abundance.

Something I had not expected, but was delighted to see was the museum gallery dedicated to the Americas when the explorers arrived, detailed with books and written documents, in addition to artwork that help tell the story of the Tequesta and other natives that were living there. We got to see an early Native American version of soccer, complete with drawings and representations of this game where they hit a ball with wood attached to their hips. The ugly side of the history is what happened to the poor Tequesta and other tribes (like the Taino) that lived on the land. The tribes were worked to death (non-intentionally) and worked from sunrise to sunset, in closed quarters, which is a perfect storm to spread disease which the Spanish brought with them. It was interesting to see the different perspectives from the natives and the Spanish for what happened, since the conquistador’s perspective was so glorified, and they even compared their arrival to the coming of Jesus. On display, they had artwork from native cultures, rich in color, meaning and history.

I encourage anyone with an interest in history to come visit MOAD and see not only the history of the building and the purposes that it serves, but also a history that we can all connect to, the coming of the Spanish conquistadors to the Americas that changed the course of history forever.

Deering Estate as Text

Photo by Marissa Rodriguez (CC by 4.0)

“Magical place” by Marissa Rodriguez of FIU at Deering Estate

Just like James and Charles Deering were brothers, I believe that Deering Estate is the sibling to Vizcaya. They are similar in beauty and historical value. Something the two have in common is the beautiful water views that the estates look out onto.

While hiking on the Miami Rock Ridge, I tried to visualize what it was like more than 100,000 years ago, for people to be walking on those same grounds and using them as trade routes. At one end of the ridge, lies the Tequesta midden. With the midden’s proximity to the water, I could see how the Tequesta used their handmade shell tools to do things like de-scale fish, and cut things with the tools’ sharp points.

On the hike along the ridge, we saw solution holes, pathways, and caves. It felt like we were exploring rugged terrain that has remained untouched by man for thousands of years, for the very first time. Being close to the water made the views beautiful, and made for some very interesting sights and discoveries. One of my favorite things was when we were shown a small cave that was half underwater, and had to walk on a narrow tree path to get there. I could only imagine what it is like underneath, and how far back it goes, and if it leads to anything!

The final stop of our tour led us to the Boat Basin, where there is the most beautiful panoramic view of Biscayne Bay, untouched by boats, with lines of palm trees that remind me of those that line streets in Los Angeles. As a photographer, taking pictures of these palm trees at the basin gives way to beautiful composition given the symmetry of the rows of trees, in addition to their reflection on the still bay.

Deering Estate, both the house and the nature preserve, make you feel like you’re somewhere else or in a movie. It is a beautiful escape from hectic life in Miami, and is somewhere I cannot wait to go back to with my family and friends, where I can share with them all that I have learned about this magical place.

Miami Beach as Text

“mysterious stone buildings” by Marissa Rodriguez of FIU at Miami Beach

Miami Beach is an iconic place, and the architecture reflects the history and style that has come and gone throughout its history. I have been to the beach many times throughout my life, but seldom have I actually taken the time to admire the buildings and the architecture of Miami Beach. The closest I have come to doing so is when my best friend came from Canada, and we stayed at a luxurious hotel with her for a few days, and then, we walked around the famous Ocean drive, past all the bars and restaurants, showing her what the area was like. We got to see their perspective of the area, as people from Canada who had never been to Miami before, but perhaps had seen it in movies or just heard about it. 

Photo by Marissa Rodriguez (CC by 4.0)

Another opportunity I had to see the architectural styles of the buildings in Miami Beach is when I went to a photography workshop in Lincoln Road and we walked all around the area. I noticed two buildings that seemed different: One was an old church building that they were renovating, and the other was a building with a Poseidon face carved into the stone. 

I couldn’t find more information on the first building, and when I looked up the address online, I found some information on Architect magazine’s website. Architect Magazine had pictures and details of the interior (like how it is made of glass and steel on the inside), but did not mention anything about the carving.  After doing some further research, I found the site of Plaza Construction, who writes that it is a 1929 Carl Fisher building and the exterior facade and roof were “historically preserved to uphold the signature Miami Design”. Being a photographer with a love for this intricate and historic, I took many pictures of the stone carving in the building, and we even had one of our workshop participants model in front of it.

The second building was the Miami Beach Community Church, and it was undergoing extensive remodeling. According to the RE Miami Beach website, it was built in 1921 on land donated by Carl Fisher. This makes it Miami Beach’s first and oldest church, and the exterior reflects the beauty and the historical value it has. After doing some research, I saw pictures of when the renovation was complete, and it looks so pretty. The goal was to modernize it, but at same time, preserve its historic features, which I believe they did well.

These two buildings are located directly next to each other, and are two reminders of the rich history of Miami Beach and it’s buildings. I usually am not interested in architecture, but my dad and sister are, so they have influenced me to appreciate architecture and different features and designs of buildings. Next time I take a trip to Miami Beach, I will be sure to stop and look at the beautiful historic buildings and the stories they have to tell.

Works cited:

“530 Lincoln Road.” Plaza Construction, Plaza Construction, http://www.plazaconstruction.com/projects/details/530-lincoln-road/.

Askew, Susan. “Oldest Church on Miami Beach Reopens Historic Sanctuary.” RE Miami Beach, 21 Dec. 2019, http://www.remiamibeach.com/south-beach/oldest-church-on-miami-beach-reopens-to-public/.

Salzano, Miabelle. “530 Lincoln Road.” Architectmagazine.com, Architect Magazine, 14 Aug. 2018, http://www.architectmagazine.com/project-gallery/530-lincoln-road_o.

HistoryMiami as Text

“Rich Past” by Marissa Rodriguez of FIU at HistoryMiami Museum

When I think of the history of Miami, it is hard to think of a certain time, since the history of Miami is so rich. You can go from the very beginning, and think of the very first settlers of Miami, which were the Native Americans, like the Creek and Tequesta tribes, in addition to the Seminoles. They were here fishing and cultivating crops and thriving, until the Europeans arrived, led by Ponce de Leon in Florida, who brought many things, like diseases, but the most successful Spanish aspect in the United States is Catholicism, their religion. As much as we look back at history and think that the Europeans were barbaric for what they did to the Native Americans, they made a permanent effect on the world forever.

One interesting part of HistoryMiami is the part where it talks about Miami’s early settlers and the first non-Native people to come live on the land. The natives had been living in the space for generations, so they helped the Europeans grow Comptie, also known as starch. These people had struggles because of the times, yet they persevered.

One part of HistoryMiami that resonates with me is the history of the Mariel Boatlift, which brought many of my grandparents’ friends and family to the United States. I could imagine how different life would be if that would not have happened. My grandparents and family  managed to escape Cuba in the 1960s and 1970s, and came here and had their kids here, since they wanted to have better lives for their families. My parents were both born here, but my Cuban roots are still strong and I would love to visit the land of my family one day, to see places like Havana where my grandmother lived, and Pinar del Rio, the rural farmland my grandfather lived in.

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