Italia Spring 2020 As Texts: Tanvi Shashidhar

Photo by Tanvi Shashidhar CC BY 4.0

Tanvi Shashidhar is currently a junior at Florida International University and the Honors College, double majoring in International Business and Marketing with a certificate in Import-Export and Supply Chain. She has an interest in the digital media aspects of marketing as well as the more logistical side of business that comes with supply chain management. Tanvi has always enjoyed traveling internationally with her friends/family and getting to know different cultures and their traditions. She is expected to graduate in the Spring of 2021 and is excited to see where this Italy study abroad course will take her. Follow her on this journey by reading her Italia as Texts below.

Vizcaya As Text

Photo by Tanvi Shashidhar CC BY 4.0

“A Sneak Peek into Villa Vizcaya: A Hidden Gem of South Florida” by Tanvi Shashidhar of FIU at Vizcaya Museum and Gardens

As someone who lives near the oldest city in the United States, Saint Augustine, I am no stranger to seeing famous historical landmarks in Florida. One thing I was not expecting to see in Miami amidst all nightclubs and beaches was a national historical landmark with a mix of both a European and Mediterranean aesthetic infused as well. Looking a little bit closer you notice the local influence from Miami that is incorporated into the infrastructure as well. For example, the Cuban limestone incorporated into the infrastructure represents a little bit of the cultural influence in Miami. The infamous owner of this estate was none other than James Deering, an industrialist and conservationist, whose goal for the estate was to conserve the landscape as well as the plant and animal life of the area.

Walking into the estate it is amazing to see how luxurious and well maintained the property has been kept no doubt due to the strong foundation that was put in place from the beginning. Each room gave a little bit more insight into James Deering’s life and personality. From the Greek statues to the art on each of the ceilings you can see the different time periods and European influence that Paul Chalfin, a notable artist and interior designer, put together. All in all, Vizcaya is a beautiful place with a fascinating history and should definitely be on the list of must-see’s when visiting Miami.

MOAD as Text

“The Freedom Tower and how it lives up to its name” by Tanvi Shashidhar of FIU at the Museum of Art and Design

Before coming to Miami I knew to expect a lot of Cuban culture, I mean it isn’t referred to as “Little Cuba” for no reason. But learning about the Freedom Tower and the sanctuary it provided for Cuban refugees really put things into perspective. From 1962 to 1974, this iconic building (aptly nicknamed “El Refugio”) was transformed into an assistance center for Cubans, which dealt with a multitude of things like healthcare, financing, housing, and even education. This building truly was a saving grace to those that were trying to escape the tyranny of Fidel Castro and gave a little beacon of hope to families that there was a way out. With the help of the Freedom Tower and everything it represented, refugees were able to slowly rebuild their life in the United States with programs for financial relief and food, and ultimately give their future generations a better life.

What I considered one of the most significant aspects of the Freedom Tower was the New World Mural, which spans a whopping 40 feet long, and does a spectacular job of depicting the heritage shared by the community. The mural shown is recreated by a group of individuals called the Miami Artisans who restored the original piece of tapestry from the 1920’s that had deteriorated over time. The mural represents a meeting of the Old World to the New World, showing the arrival of Europeans in America and subsequently how that symbolized a time of discovery and power. It showed me a story of fate and how it can unify one world with another.

South Beach as Text

Photo by Tanvi Shashidhar CC BY 4.0

“The Good and The Bad of South Beach” by Tanvi Shashidhar of FIU at South Beach

South Beach is one of Miami’s greatest attractions when one visits Miami, its where people come when they want to party, vacation, or even admire the sights and architecture. What a lot of people may not realize is that the history behind making South Beach the spectacle it is today was not a pleasant one. In the past it was depicted to be much more of a quaint area or small town, that is until a railroad was put in place. Before the diverse small town made up of whites and blacks who were able to peacefully coexist, after Carl Fisher restructured South Beach there were regulations put in place that banned blacks going onto the beach entirely. This injustice on humanity was not the end of it; in order to convert Miami Beach into the “desired” tourist attraction, Fisher destroyed the mangrove forests that populated much of the area. Hearing the ugly history of a wildly successful tourist attraction makes you think about how that concept is still alive today in big cities but instead hidden under the name of “gentrification”.

Another huge element that that makes South Beach what it is today, is the endless presence of art on every corner. The Art Deco that makes up the neighborhood is a sight that you will find nowhere else, with modern buildings that are inspired from machinery. They stand out in a way that makes it almost impossible to look away with bright neon mixed with soft pastels. The art in South Beach goes perfectly with the ambiance that night life near the beach offers.

HistoryMiami as Text

HistoryMiami Museum (Photo by JW Bailly CC BY 4.0)

“The Chronicles of Miami” by Tanvi Shashidhar of FIU at HistoryMiami Museum

The HistoryMiami Museum provides an enlightening insight of everything that happened in the past to make it into the cultural melting pot that it is today. They don’t just mention the good and positive moments either they dive into the ugly truths of this city’s foul past. The impressive exhibits showcase tools dating back to prehistoric periods in time that were able to stay intact by being buried in places like the Everglades where the wet environments conserved the artifacts. Some of the first pioneers to sail to South Florida with no knowledge of the area or its resources reached out to natives in the area for guidance, and with the Seminoles help they were not only able to survive but also teach them a few tricks to make a living as well. Stories like these in Miami’s history, where compassion is highlighted, makes you have faith in humanity and all the things it can offer.

Another exhibition called the “Gateway to the Americas” showcases many examples of immigrants traveling to Miami in hopes of finding a better life than what they were given in their home country. The lengths that Cubans and Haitians would go to in order to come to South Florida and be able to provide for their family is valiant and if not for them, Miami would not have such a myriad of culture and diversity. The history of Miami is very special in the way it has shaped the city to be completely idiosyncratic from any other city in Florida

Deering Estate as Text

Deering Estate (Photo by JW Bailly CC BY 4.0)

“A Sanctuary for Nature and History Alike” by Tanvi Shashidhar at the Deering Estate

The Deering Estate is a legendary historical site visited by locals and tourists alike showcasing not only tours but a number of special events and programs as well. Their honorable mission is devoting themselves to conserve and protect the environment, architecture, and history of the estate with whatever modern technology or methods are at their disposal. The prolific history of the Deering Estate goes all the way from the Paleo-Indians to the safeguarding of what nature has to offer. Buildings like the Richmond Cottage and the Stone House, both constructed in different time, demonstrate the varying architecture in history on the Deering Estate. An art studio is also on the grounds and offers professional artists an “Artist in Residence Program” to collaborate with like-minded professionals while producing their projects.

A monumental element of the Deering Estate is the nature and environment that it provides. For example, the Boat Basin offers a picturesque view of the water with sea creatures like manatees, dolphins, sharks, etc. It allows individuals to have a glimpse of these remarkable animals in their natural habitat without being interfered or disturbed by human beings, which is the sad life of many creatures today. Next, Chicken Key is an island formed by the accumulation of quartz and limestone and was restored in the past by having the mangrove forest and dune system connected making up for a history in Miami where the mangrove forests were obliterated. An interesting detail about the Estate is that it is assembled on top of a geological foundation called Miami Rock Ridge. It originates back over 100,000 years ago and acts as a barrier separating Biscayne Bay and the South Florida Peninsula. These few natural elements don’t even make up all of what the Deering Estate has to offer but it gives you an idea of how much wildlife and vegetation is being protected and preserved.

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