Italy Spring 2020 as Text: Mark Rodriguez

Jardin Majorelle (Photo by Mark Rodriguez)

My name is Mark Rodriguez, I am a Junior at FIU and currently studying Accounting. I love playing and watching sports, primarily basketball and golf. Traveling has brought me some of my fondest memories, just this past winter break I visited Spain and Morocco.

Vizcaya as Text

“Worlds Colliding” by Mark Rodriguez of FIU at Vizcaya Museums & Gardens

Vizcaya Museums & Gardens (Photo by Mark Rodriguez)

Visiting Vizcaya for the first time was a strange yet wonderfully immersive experience. I say strange not because of the architecture or the art within it but because of where I found it. I have lived in Miami for my whole life, (19 years) and I have never seen anything quite like this without having to take a painful 9-hour plane ride. The influence of European culture, especially its architecture is glaring upon arrival at Vizcaya. However, while many people see its connection to Italy, I associated Vizcaya to something completely different, Muslim architecture. More specifically, what I saw while visiting Marrakech this past winter, and Granada a couple years before then. What shocked me the most about these places was the beauty and attention to detail in everything they built. When we walked through the indoor courtyard at Vizcaya, I instantly had flashbacks of courtyards within the Alhambra and several other Riads I had the chance to visit abroad. The idea of having an open courtyard in the center of a home was something rather odd to me a just a few years ago but seeing it in Vizcaya now brought forth wonderful memories of things I saw thousands of miles away from there. Aside from the grand courtyard, the thing I personally enjoyed the most were the gardens. The juxtaposition I find in how unnatural man can make nature look by how they align trees or trim bushes and shape grass has always amazed me. These gardens, like the courtyard before it, took me back to Marrakech and the Medina. No matter where you looked everything was symmetrical, from the trees to the bushes around them. Seeing the gardens in Vizcaya embodied just that, from having grass grow in circles, to trees arranged in impossibly straight lines.

While I am sure my post is significantly different from the norm, seeing Vizcaya reminded me of something I saw, that at the time made me feel like I was in another world. Seeing some of that here in Miami was compelling and I thought that comparison would be worth the post.

MOAD as Text

“New Beginnings” by Mark Rodriguez of FIU at Museum of Art and Design

Museum of Art and Design (Photo by Mark Rodriguez)

This was yet another place within Miami that in spite of living here my entire life, I had never visited. Visiting this museum made me instantly think of my mom and grandmother that both fled from Cuba and came to the United States. Although they were never processed through here, my grandfather was, and he played a major role in bringing them here. Not only is this historical landmark of great significance to my family, but to all other immigrant families here in Miami. What is now this museum was once called the Freedom Tower and rightfully so, this building symbolized just that and even more so the chance to pursue one’s dreams. I can only imagine what seeing this tower meant to those coming fleeing their homes and coming to the US in search of a new life.

Aside from the familial connection I felt at the MOAD, I was also delightfully reminded of my previous trips to Spain. The Freedom Tower was completed in 1925 and its design was inspired by La Giralda in Sevilla, Spain. Within Miami this building sticks out like a sore thumb, but in the best way possible. There is nothing more “Miami” than having a building that was once used to welcome foreigners based on a building in a foreign country. This is a nod to where our ancestors were from even before Cuba as well as another example of how just about everything in Miami was inspired and has come from somewhere else.

Deering Estate as Text

“Nature at its Best” by Mark Rodriguez of FIU at Deering Estate

Photo by JW Bailly CC BY 4.0

Like many of my classmates, due to the impact of the coronavirus I have not been able to truly take a tour of Deering Estate. I was fortunate enough however to pass by a few months ago when attending a poetry reading for extra credit. Even though my time and experience there were limited, I could instantly tell that there was something special about this place. Just the rustic house overlooking the water was enough for me to instantly fall in love.

After going through the virtual walking tour, there were several things that I had no idea one could find at Deering. The main thing that caught my attention was an airplane, limp and tattered like the many paper alternatives I made when I was younger. It looks like a scene out of a movie, where people arrive at an island only to find others had crashed there years ago. Or even like something you would see while riding a safari Ride at Animal Kingdom. Aside from the unusual yet strangely appealing aesthetic, what I constantly think of is how amazing nature is. There sits a plane made of metal, intended to fly above the rest of the earth, separating itself from the land. Yet here at Deering Estate we find a plane slowly being consumed by the land, breaking down until its existence is no more. Adding just another victory to natures undefeated record against man-made structures.

HistoryMiami Museum as Text

“The Unknown History of South Florida” by Mark Rodriguez of FIU at HistoryMiami Museum

Photo by JW Bailly CC BY 4.0

Unfortunately,I have never had the chance to visit HistoryMiami Museum, nor had I heard of it before taking this class. However, thanks to the advancements of technology and professor Bailly, I was able to take a virtual tour to get a feeling of what it is like. From what I have seen, HistoryMiami is a large history museum that focuses on the past of South Florida, especially Miami. I personally never viewed Miami as a place of much history. For me, the story of South Florida used to begin with Flagler and the Brickell’s venturing to the south. But, thanks to this virtual tour and the research I did for the Ineffable Miami project I have learned that I was extremely wrong.

Among the infinite things you can find within the HistoryMiami Museum, my favorite are the ancient tools and fossils. I have always been extremely interested in ancient artifacts, primarily because of the story behind them. For some reason however, the story of the Tequesta Indians seems to be one that is commonly overlooked. Their “footprints” can be found all throughout South Florida, from Brickell to burial mounds at Deering Estate. This group of Indians inhabited South Florida for thousands of years, building villages and other intriguing structures. One of those being the Miami Circle, I spoke about this mysterious circle within my Ineffable Miami project and I read all about the artifacts found there. Thanks to this tour, I was able to see these artifacts and learn a little bit more about the Tequesta Indians. But as with many things regarding history, the more you hear about, the more you want to learn. Ultimately, this tour showed me a lot but has left me wanting to learn more about this infinitely mysterious tribe.

Miami Beach as Text

“Perfectly Picturesque” by Mark Rodriguez of FIU at Miami Beach

Photo by JW Bailly CC BY 4.0

Like most people born and raised in Miami, I have always taken the beach for granted. Growing up I saw movies set in Miami, some even filmed at the beach or on Ocean Drive. The two movies I instantly think of are some of my all-time favorites, Scarface and Birdcage. Scarface is a movie about a Cuban immigrant, Tony Montana, that comes to Miami and eventually becomes its most prominent drug dealer. Several scenes from that movie were filmed right on Ocean Drive, the same is true for Birdcage. In this movie, starring Robin Williams, the entire movie was filmed at The Carlyle. I always though directors chose South Beach as a place to film because of its great weather and beaches but this virtual tour showed me the real reason why.

There is no place in Miami that even has the slightest resemblance to South Beach, let alone Ocean Drive. This one street is filled with unique, in your face, neon architecture. As you can see none of the buildings are very tall, but the funky designs, porthole windows and screaming colors make up for what they lack in size. The colors neon colors found on South Beach have influenced fashion trends and things outside of art. For example, the Miami Heat, my favorite basketball team made jerseys and even an entire court to pay homage to Miami Vice and the Art Deco look. This street sticks out like a sore thumb amongst the rest of the city, and that’s what makes it so “Miami”. It symbolizes fun and being different, just like the very locals that live there and even those that come to visit.

Leave a Reply