Italia As Text: Molly Schantz

My name is Molly Schantz. I was born in Miami, but grew up in Asheville, North Carolina. I am majoring in Political Science on the Pre-Law track. After I graduate FIU, I would like to go to law school and eventually practice environmental law. I have never been to Italy before, so I am extremely excited to experience a new place full of such rich history. I’ve always believed that travel and cultural experience is the best way to get an education and being in a class where I can learn about topics outside of my major while also being outside a classroom is my ideal honors class. Our lives are related back to European history so heavily, especially Italian history and I can’t wait to find my connections to that history through this class.

Vizcaya As Text

Molly Schantz (2019)

“Eastern Europe in Our Backyard” by Molly Schantz of FIU at Vizcaya Museum and Gardens

I had visited Vizcaya before with a different class, but my second time experiencing the place was very different. The parallels between Rome and Vizcaya became very clear on my most recent visit. Vizcaya was built around 1920 by the direction of James Deering and other European settlers. The area around Vizcaya had become a hub for Bahamian people in Miami, mainly because they were pushed into this area by Europeans. The European influence of Vizcaya is visible from almost every corner which makes it so interesting as it almost seems out of place. Also comparing Miami as its own city with the religious customs of Roman history is easy to do at Vizcaya and creates an interesting dynamic between what we think is a Christian/Catholic world versus what we actually live within. 

Vizcaya was created in the image of a European Palace. Everything is inspired by greatness, victory, and luxury that we often associate with Rome. There is an victory arch that leads to the gardens, and classic Roman Catholic inspired ceiling mural, and my favorite ode to ancient Rome, the statue of Bacchus, the Roman God of Wine, that greets you right at the front door. The image of Bacchus is what I found most interesting because it shows how little James Deering actually cared about classic European principles of religion and tradition. Bacchus is the perfect representation of America in that he is a Roman God who represents drinking wine and living in luxury which is exactly the image that Americans want to have of Europe. It also represents Miami as a place of sin covered by luxury and rich architecture. 


Vizcaya is a unique experience especially nowadays for people to visit such an out of place piece of architecture. It’s unlike any other in Miami with it’s direct Roman influence. 

MOAD As Text

Photo by Molly Schantz

“I am Italy, You are Italy” by Molly Schantz of FIU at the Museum of Art and Design

The Museum of Art and Design at MDC is located inside of the Freedom Tower. The Freedom Tower is a historic landmark in Miami as it is where immigrants from Cuba were processed and the first place they were brought to in their new home. The museum is full of rich history and artifacts from the Pre-Colombian era and the very beginning of exploration in the Americas. 

What I found most intriguing were the world maps from the 15th and 16th century or around that time. Today we have maps that are tracked by satellite and available at our fingertips, but hundreds of years ago explorers had to draw maps by hand based on their own travels and almost trace the land borders and coastlines by foot and boat. When I was looking at these maps, I found myself laughing because of how inaccurate they look to my eye as someone who has grown up with virtual navigation access. I viewed these hand drawn maps as trivial when in reality they were a major innovation at the time they were made public. This all just goes back to how we ARE Italy or we ARE Rome. Almost every concept in our daily lives can be traced back to European influence. America is named after an Italian man. Maps were created by Italian or Western European explorers. We often feel so comfortable in the things we have access to that we forget where they actually came from and how fascinating it is that we have these things. They also have the first Atlas, Theatrum Orbis Terrarum, which was such an anomaly when first discovered because it contained 53 maps bound together in a uniform style and in order of continent and country. 

When you really think about it, these maps are so significant because of the amount of work they took to create and the genuine belief of accuracy and opportunity for knowledge that they brought to society. 

Miami Beach as Text

South Beach, photo by John Bailly (CC BY 4.0)

“Nostalgia” by Molly Schantz of FIU at South Beach

My dad spent his entire childhood living in South Beach and all my life has referred to South Beach as “the back of his hand”. He watched the city grow from the late 60’s to the early 90’s and he grew with the city. I spent many vacations staying at my grandparents house on the bay side of South Beach, but learned the city very quickly as a child and get to learn it and love it more now as an adult living in Miami. My word association with South Beach will always be nostalgia. Every part of the city brings back memories, not only for myself, but my whole family and I believe the art deco buildings, the colors, and the general vibe heavily contribute to the nostalgia and that feeling of being transported back to a different place.

South Beach holds a lot of history that may not be apparent to the naked eye. My family is Jewish and has lived on South Beach for over 50 years now and something they appreciate is the large jewish community in the city. The history of the jewish community in South Beach is unfortunate. Carl Fisher and Henry Flagler, two of the main developers of Miami Beach, discriminated against Jewish people and tried to push them out of the up and coming city. From the time Jews began settling in Miami Beach in the 1930’s, there were signs posted on businesses and hotels explicitly stating that they were not welcome. There was a rule for many years that jews were not allowed to live north of 5th street on South Beach. Beth Jacob was the first synagogue built on Miami Beach in 1929 between 3rd and 4th street in compliance with the rule. In 1986, the synagogue was transformed into the Jewish Museum of Florida to commemorate and celebrate the rich history of the Jewish people in this country. The building is consistent with the Art-Deco design of South Beach. The original stained-glass windows and bimah still exist inside. The shift from discrimination to now pride of the Jewish people in South Beach is a beautiful thing and encourages thriving diversity.

The eclectic vibe of South Beach and Art Deco design features, such as neon colors, glass bricks, and porthole windows, can be found in every corner; restaurants, clubs, hotels, and even religious sanctuaries and history museums.

Deering Estate as Text

Deering Point at Biscayne Bay, Photo by John Bailly (CC BY 4.0)

“Miami’s Hidden Gem” by Molly Schantz of FIU at the Deering Estate

The Deering Estate is the epitome of what tourists and visitors wouldn’t expect to find in Miami. This historical landmark was once the home of Charles Deering, but before that the land belonged to Tequesta tribe. The current state of the estate is reminiscent of the 1920’s, but some areas of the land date back 10,000 years to when the Tequesta people lived there. The Tequesta Burial Mound and the Cutler Fossil Site are two examples of places within the Deering Estate that hold historical value that goes much deeper than any other place you could visit in Miami.

The Deering Estate features the Richmond Cottage and the Stone House which are architecturally intriguing, but I think the most interesting part of the Deering Estate is all of the natural areas that lay within the boundaries of the estate. It does cost money to take formal tours and to see the homes, explore Tropical Hardwood Hammock, tour the Nature Preserve, and watch the manatees at the Boat Basin, there are opportunities to see Miami in all its glory for free.

The Deering Estate is on the coast of Biscayne Bay, giving visitors perfect access to the water and away from the city life that we associate with Miami. The People’s Dock is open to the public and a great place for fishing or just experiencing the bay in whatever way one feels is best. The dock is located near the Visitor’s Center. There is a lack of access to Biscayne Bay all throughout Miami, but the Deering Estate just happens to have multiple points of access, making a visit even more desirable for locals and tourists alike. The other public access point is Deering Point. Deering Point is located at the very southernmost point of the property and is open for non motorized boat launch, kayaking, canoeing, fishing, and more. There is free parking, public restrooms, and first come first serve shade pavilions. I feel so fortunate to have places like the Deering Estate within a 20 mile radius of anywhere in Miami. There are stereotypes about Miami, that it is a city of skyscrapers and nightlife and wealthy people partying and while, yes, sometimes that is true, Miami should be known for its deep history within the native Americas and the beautiful environment and natural spaces at every corner. The Deering Estate is a perfect place to capture the true essence of Miami, before the skyscrapers and nightclubs ever existed.

History Miami as Text

HistoryMiami Museum, Photo by John Bailly (CC BY 4.0)

“History that will Never be Forgotten” by Molly Schantz of FIU at HistoryMiami Museum

The HistoryMiami Museum was founded in 1940 and has since then prided itself in sharing the true and raw history of South Florida. As the largest history museum in Florida, HistoryMiami has artifacts and exhibits that highlight people, groups, and events in history that may often be pushed aside or simply forgotten and shed light upon the real history of Miami and beyond.

HistoryMiami starts at the very beginning. Visitors are able to see artist renditions of what native settlers looked like when they first discovered South Florida. These settlers were Pre-Columbian and important to highlight the fact that European settlers were not the first people to come across land in America. They also have tools that were excavated from the Cutler Fossil Site at the Deering Estate. Fast forward through the museum and through artifacts from different stages of immigration, settlement, and development in Miami and you get to artifacts relating to Cuban settlement. For many of us, this is the type of immigration in South Florida that we think of and what shapes Miami today. The photo above is a model of the makeshift boats that Cubans and Haitians would take on their voyage to America. These boats became very common in the 80’s when Fidel Castro opened the Port of Mariel for anyone who wanted to leave the island and go to Florida. HistoryMiami shows hundreds of year of history of the people who made Miami what it is today.

When we think of Miami today, we tend to forget the rich history that came before the art in Wynwood, the skyscrapers in Midtown and Downtown, or the nightclubs and party culture. We are lucky to have a place like the HistoryMiami Museum which allows us to discover our roots as a city and truly know where our surroundings came from. Learning the important history of Miami helps us appreciate where we live and maybe hold different stereotypes about Miami as a whole.

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