France Spring 2020 As Texts: Gabriel Sánchez

Gabriel Sanchez, the author, taken by Aixa Campo-Sanchez (CC BY 4.0)

Gabriel Sánchez is a Sophomore in the Honors College at Florida International University majoring in International Business. He is on his way to graduating in the Fall of 2021 and plans to continue his upper division education in law school. He will be traveling with Professor Bailly to France in the Summer of 2020.

Vizcaya as Text

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Photo by Gabriel Sanchez CC BY 4.0

“Same Traveler, New Outlook”, by Gabriel Sanchez of FIU at Vizacaya Museum & Gardens on January 31, 2020

On January 31st, Professor Bailly took his France Study Abroad class on a tour to Vizcaya Museum and Gardens. This was my second time visiting Vizcaya; however, I realized this was the first time I would be appreciating such architecture, landscape, and one of Miami’s greatest views. This entire trip may have just changed the way I appreciate historical landmarks when I travel.

Professor Bailly guided us to the entrance and he immediately began lecturing. I paid attention to his voice more than being given the chance to admire the moat that was 10 feet deep, full of water and later cacti that would keep trespassers away. Never really caring about the French words, “J’ai Dit” translating to “I have spoken”, located on the north staircase. Even the chandeliers, the paintings, and the furniture meant nothing to me. All I seemed to be worried about was the quiz that I would have instead of admiring and taking in the details of history and architecture of Deering’s dream come true. However, as soon as Bailly led us to the back entrance of the house, I became captivated with the barge. I immediately traveled back to the month of December in 2019, where I spent two weeks traveling through Italy. Venice, being one of the most beautiful cities that captured my attention, suddenly engulfed my memory, as I stood there near the barge at Vizcaya. It seems like the water, the sunset, the architecture, and the boats blended into a common element of beauty and peace. Now, I understand why so many enjoy traveling. Traveling allows one to escape their worries they may have at work, school, or even in their own house. Traveling allows one to step outside their comfort zone and truly appreciate history and natures beauty, anywhere one may find them. Travelling allows one to fully experience the things we learn and read about in school, books, and television.

During this trip to Vizcaya, I expected just a day of note taking and reviewing as soon as I made my way home. Luckily, I left with what will soon be one of the greatest trips of my life, filled with admiration of parts of the world I have yet to discover. However, most importantly, more moments back in Miami that remind me of grateful I should be for having the opportunity, at a very young age to visit other countries.

MOAD as Text

Photo by Gabriel Sanchez CC BY 4.0

“Freedom, Opportunity, but first, Sacrifice” by Gabriel Sanchez of FIU at Museum of Art & Design on February 21st, 2020

On February 21st, Professor Bailly took his France study abroad class to explore the depths and history of the Freedom Tower at the Museum of Art & Design. Known as the “Ellis Island of the South”, I learned on this trip that the Freedom Tower is much more than just a marvelous structure of architecture, it is the ultimate symbol for universal human rights.

Dating back since 1924, the Freedom Towers history truly caught my attention once Professor Bailly mentioned the “Pedro Pan”. Operation Peter Pan was essentially parents with children ranging from the age of nine to eighteen, being sent to the United States, in order to escape the terror of Fidel Castro’s continuous rise in dictatorship in Cuba. The only thought that circulated in my head was how a parent had the courage, and the final say in sending their child away, potentially never being able to see them again. Right there and then, I thought of my Father. Although he is was not apart of the “Pedro Pan”, he was caught up in a similar situation. In 1983, at the age 17, he and his three sisters were forced out of Nicaragua, due to the rise and implementation of communism, led by Daniel Ortega. My grandfather sent my father to California with some relatives, and his three sisters to upstate New York to a convent that my grandfather’s older sister was a mother superior. I finally began to realize that since I am not a parent, I refuse to believe I can understand the decision parents of children apart of operation Pedro Pan and my grandfather made, but I was given a glimpse of their point of view. My grandfather put aside his selfishness of wanting to see my father and aunts grow up and stay with him and be together as a family. Instead, he made the ultimate sacrifice, knowing he may never see his children again and sent them off to America, with better opportunity, advantages, and freedom.

The life I live is owed all to my grandfather. My father went from riches in Nicaragua to rags in California, to eventually building his way to his top by finishing high school, starting and finishing college, and having his own family. The Freedom Tower is known for much more than Operation Pedro Pan and Cuban parents sending their children, hoping for a better opportunity. The Freedom Tower represents parents putting aside their selfish desires to keep their family together and understand that if there is true opportunity and freedom for their child to attain, they will take advantage of it. That Freedom Tower represents the life I live now, full of freedom and opportunity. My grandfather sent my father to America, in order to ensure his children and future grandchildren’s lives would not be wasted. In my eyes, the Freedom Tower is no longer just a fine building of architecture, it is the embodiment of universal human rights.

Deering Estate as Text

Deering Estate from deeringestate.org

“To More Memories” by Gabriel Sanchez of FIU at Deering Estate

Due to the pandemic of COVID-19, FIU, and Universities across the country transitioned to remote learning for the remainder of the semester. Sadly, I was not able to venture with my classmates to explore and experience Deering Estate as the unit we have become. However, Deering Estate is not completely foreign to me. I have visited a few times and have just learned what memories have been created in such a historical part of Miami.

Ever since I could remember, I have been making slight appearances at Deering Estate. My first time, as a 6th grader, being excited to discover and hunt for ghosts on Deering Estates annual Ghost Tour. Choosing to ignore everything the tour guide had to say about Miami’s first pioneers. Not understanding how lucky I was, getting the opportunity, to walk on the same land as the Native Americans that made their mark, and the history of Charles Deering himself. As a high schooler, I was a part of Mrs. Wilcox Miami Youth Chamber Music (MYCM), playing Smetna’s String Quartet no. 1 in E minor and Schubert’s String Quintet in C, D.956 with aspiring musicians. I also saw Richard Blanco this year as a sophomore in college, recite his most famous poems in the beautiful Stone House, where most of Deering Estates events take place. I like to believe that Charles Deering smiles during moments like these, as he enjoyed showcasing his art collection. The Stone House being a peaceful place for him to channel serenity in his last years on earth. Deering, in my eyes, would have wanted us all to be able to showcase our art, through an exhibit, a poetry reading, or bringing musicians around to enjoy classics. 

Although I was not able to visit Deering Estate during such a hectic time around the world, I am extremely glad I did not. I would have never been able to reflect on the memories I have curated at Deering Estate, now finally understanding how special those moments were and how amazing it is to have them formed there. The next time I visit Deering Estate, I hope to make new memories with the same feeling of realization at such a historical landmark in Miami.

Miami Beach (South Beach) as Text

Miami Beach: (Photo by JW Bailly CC BY 4.0)

“The true meaning of Community” by Gabriel Sanchez of FIU at Miami Beach

The South Beach that I have known to love does not sound anything like the South Beach in the past. Once Carl Fisher set foot on the “wasteland” that he had discovered on vacation, he failed to realize that he could not just simply erase the true origin of South Beach that continues to live on to this day. South Beach has always been and will always be the multiracial, melting pot that many visit and many light up to call home.

Before Fisher set foot, it was a small town where the color of one’s skin did not matter and what language one spoke did not matter. However, once Fisher decided to develop South Beach, Miami took a dark turn for the worse. For example, at one point in time, African Americans became banned from their right to public beaches and Jews were not allowed to live north of 5th street. Although, with all the discrimination everyone but a white man endured, the only thing Fisher could not change was the heart South Beach was born with.

South Beach was born with loving and open arms that created the true meaning of community. Fisher may have forgotten that African Americans, Afro-Bahamians, and Seminoles helped inhabit this region, but not me, and most importantly, not South Beach. South beach then, and South Beach today is the home of embracing different cultures, finding something in common with people of different backgrounds, and still seeing them as your neighbor. I finally feel like I understand South Beach and Miami, Florida. When one asks me how Miami is, my answer will not just describe how great the weather is and how different the food is. “Miami is a large family, really encapsulating the meaning of a community, where no one worries what language they speak and what they look like because we all built this city together.” Everyone needs to understand, especially across the country, that we are all in this together.

As a young boy, growing up in the suburbs of Miami, Florida, I am disappointed to admit that I have never been to South Beach. However, when the time comes and I do visit, I will not just treat it as a nice day at the beach, but a day full of history every step I take, thanks to my community.

History Miami as Text

History Miami Museum (Photo by JW Bailly CC BY 4.0)

“History Miami Museum: Not allowing the past to repeat itself” by Gabriel Sanchez of FIU at History Miami Museum

What really struck me about the History Miami Museum is not the wooden implements from the Archaic and the Glades Period, the beautiful mural found in the museum core exhibition, Tropical Dreams: A Peoples History of South Florida, or even the Trolleys that were previously used in Miami in the 1920s, painfully reminding everyone who steps in what life used to be like not too long ago. History Miami’s Mission Statement shifted my attention from any of the exhibits before I even had the chance to continue the virtual tour. The mission consists of focusing on the past, whether good or bad, and using it to be better, highlighting everything that makes the city of Miami, Miami, today.

The History of Miami Museum refuses to shy away from its past. It is known that the “Creek Migration” is infamous for the Creeks tribes having to migrate farther down south to escape genocide of the colonizers taking their freedom and land away from them. It is highlighted inside of the museum. In addition, another exhibit shows how one of the only reasons that Miami is a city, is because of 12 black men who helped construct the railroad in 1896. Those same men suffered from oppression and enslavement. Now those men are identified by their full names when one learns about through this exhibit. There is even an exhibit dedicated to the same trolleys that used to ride around South Florida in the 1920s, reminding everyone who was not white, that they had to either stand or go right to the back.

What truly makes this Museum a must if one lives in Miami or if one is visiting, is due to its raw persona that is displayed throughout every exhibit. History Miami Museum is not afraid to admit that the city has made some mistakes. History Miami does not shy away from its past actions, embracing the horrendous decisions, but not letting the past define them. Throughout each exhibit, they are highlighting their faults and giving the respect and credit deserved to the people they have done wrong, today. They are in no way trying to destroy history, but showcase how it has changed them for the better, showing the city of Miami that they are not the same, but so much better. This museum is doing its part in making sure, the bad side of history does not repeat itself.

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