Alvaro Alvarez is a Junior at the Honors College at Florida International University, majoring in Information Systems Management. He is an avid traveler and reader, music and animal lover, who enjoys spending time with family and friends.
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“Hidden by Beauty” by Alvaro Alvarez of FIU at Vizcaya Museum and Gardens
Vizcaya is a landmark of South Florida that is covered in beautiful vegetation, unique architecture, and an ocean front view. All over this estate which used to belong to James Deering are touches of culture from various European countries. Although the property is very appealing to the eye the fact that there are so many cultures represented in the mansion makes me feel like to much is going on at once. Why not just represent the Miami culture in this estate? The answer lies in the fact that Miami is a boiling pot of different cultures and ideas that in itself has no single representative.
Just because I believe that to many cultures are mixing into one big picture does not lessen Viscayas value. The architecture inspired by Europe is beautiful in detail and the vegetation and design of the estate makes it the perfect place for pictures which brings so many people to visit. What most people don’t know is James Deering’s attitude towards his workers and how he felt about people coming into his property. A great example of this is moat which surrounds the house. James did not want random or lower class people from entering his property so he devised a moat to falling would be the smartest to deal with these pests.
Moving along, James Deering made sure to make his life as easy and as less bothersome as possible. Making sure his kitchen floor was made of sound aborning material to make sure his servants did not wake him up or make to much noise while he was in the house. Furthermore, installing a dumbwaiter to make sure the food could be brought straight to the second floor while he relaxed in the comfort of the second floor. The Deering household is another example of the way people of a lesser class were treated in the past.
Although Vizcaya is a beautiful property the way the constructors of it were treated wasn’t always.
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“What Is the Truth” by Alvaro Alvarez of FIU at MOAD
Upon entering the MOAD, Museum of Art and Design at MDC, one can tell that isn’t any ordinary museum. This museum, located at the Freedom Tower, is dominated by European elements and culture but that only becomes obvious when you walk further in.
As you are entering the museum section of the Freedom Tower you see a big mural on the wall showing cuban immigrants. This is because during the cold war cubans decided to engage in an exodus across the sea to America and this is one of the reception centers were they were taken care of and set up. This building is another example, as Vizcaya was, of the melting pot named Miami, and was designed to look like the Giralda Cathedral Bell Tower in Seville, Spain.
Once you move forward from the Cuban side of the building you encounter another mural. This shows Juan Ponce de Leon’s discovery of Florida and shows a beautiful union between the Spanish and the Indians which is obviously fictional. You also encounter a poem by Edwin Markham which romantically describes Leon landing in florida looking for the fountain of youth and describes Florida as “his land where all the hours Dance by us treading upon flowers”.
This theme of a magical union between the Indians and the Spanish was dispersed all throughout the museum. As the Spanish wanted to show the Kings and Queens how the Americas were a perfect land without disputes that all should visit. Even going as far to fake stories, and make it seem like they were pals with all the indians. Aside from the farce of the Spanish, there are beautiful and interesting paintings and artifacts set all throughout the museum. It is a great museum for any to visit but not for the unperceptive who will be convinced of a great friendship between two races that did not occur.
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“The Diverse Estate” by Alvaro Alvarez of FIU at The Deering Estate
The Deering Estate is a diverse property in Miami comprised of all different types of terrains and buildings that make it whole. This property was the home of Charles Deering in the 1920’s who was a “preservationist, environmentalist, art collector, and philanthropist”. To this day it has been preserved and enhanced to become a place for anybody to come and enjoy. Any person looking for something to do will be enticed by its unique offerings such as wildlife experiences, fascinating flora and fauna, art pieces, a look back in time at fossils that have been found, and seafood festivals with fish caught just in the area.
This property was designed and created during an era of Miami were African-American or Afro-Bahamian people were the majority of the workers constructing the house. The horrible working conditions led to the death of some of these men in an accident were dynamite exploded during construction leaving four dead and five injured. Throughout my voyage of these as texts it has become a theme that the men who bought and planned these properties did not give much value to the construction men and they were often killed or injured in the process of creating them.
Going back further in time the land was inhabited by the Tequesta Indians. I am drawn to the fact that there is such evidence of these Natives who did not even have a written language system. The tools that have been found link us with the past and the job Deering Estate does to keep these artifacts preserved and visible for the public is enchanting. The thought of Tequestas being buried in “Tequesta Burial Mound” interests me and makes me ask what else can be found on these lands that hold so much.
I am thrilled at the prospect of being able to explore these lands once society opens back up. Not only will I be able to see the architecture of the Cottage as well as the stone building but I will be able to explore Chicken Key, and Deering Point. Two locations filled with a beautiful view of the Ocean that has always been my favorite.
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“Flashing Lights” by Alvaro Alvarez of FIU at South Beach
South Beach is an iconic piece of Miami, attracting all types of super stars and celebrities around the world to see its beautiful Art Deco district, beaches and nightclubs. This island of Miami dubbed SoBe is connected by a series of bridges and roads to the bottom half of mainland Miami and is very small being only around 2.70 square miles.
Miami Beach as a whole has always been a tropical wonderland in my mind. From the early age of 8 years old I have been staying at the Seacoast 5151 Collins Ave. Condominium for the month of July and South Beach runs deep into this nostalgia that fills me. I have such deep memories with my cousins and family staring out of the car window driving by the Art Deco district and just being fascinated by all the colors that fill the sides of buildings and the uniqueness of the architecture that was so new and perfectly fitting of this area. As I got older and had a better sense of direction and attention I remember walking down the boardwalk looking at all the hotels, restaurants, and buildings that filled the area and taking trips down to Nikki Beach for a day of playing soccer on the beach and getting burnt because of to little sunscreen.
After learning the history of Miami Beach I am taken aside by the fact that whites and blacks lived together before the construction of Miami Beach as a city. I’m sad to say I was part of the ignorant few that did not know that Miami beach wasn’t a wasteland before the mangroves were removed and the vision of Carl Fisher was realized.
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“Boiling Pot” by Alvaro Alvarez of FIU at HistoryMiami Museum
HistoryMiami Museum holds a collection of artifacts, art, and history which highlights Miami’s liveliest moments and does not shy away from its cruelest. Being the largest museum in Florida it contains over “37,000 artifacts” contained inside its walls and a vast amount of knowledge on our peninsulas history. Starting with “Miami, The Magic City” photos depicting the history of miami are laid out upon the walls showing our history and how we have developed. This continues into various segments of the museum that continue to show the life and culture of Florida and Miami.
One of the shocking sites in the museum has to be the sign situated inside of the bus. Containing the words “WHITE PASSENGERS SEAT FROM FRONT” depicts just how people of color were treated and cruel people can be. But this is only before you see the “balseros” or boats that cubans used to get from Cuba to Florida. These boats being barely and looking like they could come apart at any moment show just how desperate people were to leave Cuba and Fidel Castro’s reign. This just further mixed the culmination of people that make up the United States and truly was another step forward in diversification.
Alongside Deering, HistoryMiami also holds important artifacts pertaining to the Tequesta Indians. The group that spread out through the land for so long before European invaders was completely wiped away by the 1500’s. Not only were they completely wiped out but there burial mounds and land was not treated with any respect and completely ruined.