Italia Spring 2020 As Texts: Christina Fernandez

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Christina Fernandez is a second-year student at the Honors College at Florida International University majoring in International Business and Marketing. She is looking forward to graduating in the Fall of 2021 and initiating her career in Business. Below are her reflections based on the “Italy: Grand Tour Redux” class she is taking in the spring and summer semesters of 2020.

VIZCAYA AS TEXT

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“An Illuminating Stroll Through the Garden” by Christina Fernandez of FIU at Vizcaya Museum & Gardens on January 31, 2020

Prior to visiting Vizcaya, I didn’t have a complete understanding of the depth that this renowned location had to offer other than often coming across professional photos on my Instagram feed where somebody would pose in the breathtaking gardens of Vizcaya in celebration of a momentous occasion in their lives, such as a wedding or a quinceañera. Upon visiting for the first time, I realize that there is so much more to Vizcaya than what meets the eye. As someone who often finds themselves getting lost in the beauty of nature, the gardens captivated me the most. The history that this location holds manifests beautifully in not only its architecture, but its scenery as well. The rich Italian and French influences on Vizcaya’s landscape were crafted by Diego Suarez, a Colombian landscape architect. The plethora of orchids, green mazes and perfectly trimmed shrubs alongside the garden sculptures were a magnificent sight. The gardens evoked a sense of nostalgia within me because it reminded me of a vacation I took years ago when I visited the gardens in the Palace of Versailles in France with my family. The meticulous patterns in both gardens are similar in the symmetry and geometric designs that are demonstrated in the luxurious mazes, identical shrubs, and spectacular outdoor fountains. Besides the engaging visuals of the Vizcaya gardens, I was also enthralled to learn that back then, some areas of the gardens acted as a “safe haven” where people of different social classes could interact with one another since it wasn’t socially acceptable to do so within the walls of the estate. My first trip to Vizcaya was a valuable experience because it reminded me that there’s often an insightful story beyond what only meets the eye, and I can’t wait to go back to do some further exploring.

MOAD AS TEXT

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“The Perseverance of Faith” by Christina Fernandez of FIU at Gesu Catholic Church, 21 February 2020

I was pleasantly surprised to stumble upon the Gesu Catholic Church on my visit to downtown Miami. The beautiful stained glass and the peaceful ambience captivated me the moment I stepped inside this historical landmark. The abundance of religious symbols that surrounded the interior of the church reminded me of my own faith and religious practice. Visiting the oldest Catholic Church in South Florida, from my perspective of growing up in a ​Catholic household, was honestly a unique and memorable experience. I felt a sense of familiarity when I entered the walls of that sacred building because of the layout of the church with the white candles, crosses, and renowned religious figures that I had always appreciated since I have been going to church regularly with my family my entire life and am able to find myself within those symbols. Not only is the church breathtaking in terms of its physical attributes, it is rich with history as well. The church served as a foundation of religion to those who fought in wars such as the First and Second World Wars, and the Spanish-American War. The church also assisted Hispanics migrating to Miami by serving as a sanctuary of faith and education. When I’ve traveled with my family when I was younger, we’ve always made it a point to visit notable churches due to the stunning artwork and visually pleasing details they hold. Now that I’m older, I feel that I have a different outlook on how I should approach touring these holy sites because while I am able to observe the spiritual power that the religious sculptures and paintings the churches possess, I am now more inclined to do research on the history behind these churches and everything they encompass because I believe it will make the experience that much more fulfilling and enlightening.

MIAMI BEACH AS TEXT

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Whenever I had the opportunity to stroll through South Beach, I’d be stunned by the distinct architecture that would surround me. Generally, South Beach is viewed as a contemporary world to visitors, but the rich history of this city can be observed in the architecture of many buildings in the area. Art Deco Miami is noteworthy for its twentieth-century European, Mesopotamian, and Mesoamerican designs that are reflected on the buildings through aesthetic devices such as ziggurat rooflines, white facades with pastel highlights, glass bricks, curved edges, and neon. Additionally, these buildings incorporate aspects of the early fascination with the unique designs of machines. Although efforts were made by developers to tear these buildings down to create modern homes, activists who truly cared about the preservation of South Beach’s history, such as Barbara Baer Capitman, stopped Art Deco Miami from becoming unrecognizable. South Beach’s architecture is distinctive in which it differs from the usual buildings in other areas such as Brickell or Downtown Miami. South Beach conserves its history while continuing to be a huge tourist attraction filled with lively days and nights. For instance, the Park Central Hotel and the Carlyle are hotels that date back to the late 1930s and early 1940s, and after decades they maintain their original structures and designs with little modifications to sustain them. These classic pieces of architecture are very popular and well-known in South Beach and their traditional style is what gives them their unique character. Whenever I visit South Beach, I never hesitate to admire the pastel buildings that represent Art Deco so perfectly. Growing up in Miami, I visited South Beach frequently and always thought so highly of this community because the area and the buildings were so mesmerizing that I felt as if I had time-traveled to a different era. As I grew older, I learned to truly appreciate the effort it took to create and preserve South Beach’s vibrant architecture.These buildings are more than just concrete and paint; they represent Miami’s integrity by reflecting its history onto its present, rather than falling under the conformity of corporations that profit from destroying the walls that made the city. 

DEERING ESTATE AS TEXT

Photo by JW Bailly CC BY 4.0

Deering Estate, a significant landmark, holds a complex and diverse history that cannot be seen by the naked eye of a tourist. Charles Deering was a businessman, philanthropist, and the chairman of the board for the company International Harvester, amongst other notable titles. He was very wealthy and purchased these acres of land that later became known as a significant landmark, Deering Estate. While many believe Deering Estate is just a luxurious property that Charles Deering and his family lived on, there exist more layers to this land that date back to over 10,000 years ago. In this ancient period, various groups occupied these lands. Paleo-Indian shelters and Tequesta settlements were situated in this area. It is believed that the Tequesta resided on Deering Estate due to the burial and fossil sites in the area, which is one of the few accounts of their existence. Knowing that there is an ancient burial site on the lands of the estate is mystifying and it makes me wonder how life was in pre-historic times. Deering Estate receives maintenance in order to salvage the extensive history that the land and architecture holds. When I have visited Deering Estate in the past, I would be fascinated by the abundance of beauty that the flora and architecture this location holds. Now I am aware of the immense historical value that this estate holds by recognizing and respecting the historical artifacts left behind by the Tequesta, such as shell tools and pottery. I’ve stood on and admired the lands of Deering Estate, but knowing that they had been occupied for thousands of years before will allow me to see it in a new perspective when I plan to visit in the future when the COVID-19 pandemic subsides. It makes me appreciate how humans can preserve history and transform it into a beautiful, touristic area, where one can continue to value and respect the past.

HISTORY MIAMI AS TEXT

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If you ever find yourself in downtown Miami, the HistoryMiami museum is the place to visit to gain a greater understanding of the city’s rich history through resources such as tours, exhibitions, and publications. While the museum has unfortunately temporarily closed its doors to the public due to the COVID-19 pandemic, people are still able to experience aspects of what the museum has to offer through a virtual tour of the digital museum they created online. While the in-person visit offers the fuller, more in-depth experience, this is a great tool to utilize in the meantime. The exhibition that caught my eye the most was “Tropical Dreams: A People’s History of South Florida because it highlights where South Florida history all began- with the arrival of prehistoric Indians more than 10,000 years ago. South Florida has been home to many immigrants from a variety of places that bring different cultures, acting as a melting pot since pre-historic times. This exhibit examines the first people that inhabited South Florida, disputes between many nations about the control of the Florida peninsula, the southward expansion of the U.S., new technological advancements, and the transition to the beginning of industrialization. This exhibition effectively portrays the many changes that South Florida has undergone, from first settling and establishing a certain lifestyle to later on industrializing the area, making the success of the city a significant part of the success of the rest of the Americas during that period. The HistoryMiami Museum serves as a way to explore South Florida’s past and appreciate the various levels that it took for Miami to achieve success as a city in America. It helps us delve deeper into our current culture and the culture of our forerunners by learning about Miami’s communities and history that make it stand out.

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