Italy Spring 2020 As Texts: Laurent Garchitorena

My name is Laurent, my major is psychology with a minor in chemistry, but I am also pre-med. I am 21 years old and currently, a full-time student. I love to travel, but my passion is medicine. I am trying to explore and discover as much as possible before immersing myself in the arduous process of medical school.

Vizcaya as Text

“Beyond Vizcaya’s Surface” by Laurent Garchitorena of FIU at Vizcaya Museum and Gardens

What is it about Vizcaya that interests not only locals but thousands of tourists a year? It wasn’t the home of a king, the site where I war was fought, or a unique architectural masterpiece. Compared to the architecture, history, and art of Italy, Spain, and France, Vizcaya is but a poor imitation. However, it is one of the most impressive spots in Miami. How? Miami is a city with no culture of its own, and in it, Vizcaya is one of a kind. There is no other building that delivers the customs and history of Europe in the same way.

The value of Vizcaya goes beyond its astounding sculptures or tile work, but it relies on the stories behind each portion of the house. It is the union of the practices of European and how they became the habits of Miami at some point. A fitting example is the steep stairs and how the host, James Deering, would make visitors stand on the bottom, wait for him to emerge, and then climb all steps to show appreciation and gratitude for his invitation. Although lost with time, for a little while, Miami locals learned how to treat “royalty” and abide by certain behaviors that were expected.

Vizcaya was and continues to be a learning experience; everything has a why and a relationship to life before and now. At a simple glance, the arc doors were beautiful and intricate, but with some research, we learn that they symbolize victory and conquest. Walking through those doors with the original intent in mind made me feel like a winner, like a conqueror. How is this possible for a simple FIU student who has never set foot outside of the Americas? Mind and spirit perform incredible work, and knowing a little bit of history made me connect with the past and put myself in the same position as my ancestors to the point where I began to feel what they felt so many years ago in a completely different place.

The authentic beauty of Vizcaya is in the relationship it can create between individuals from the 21st century and those who created history many lifetimes ago.

MOAD as Text

“The Celestial Dome: Tranquility and Peace” by Laurent Garchitorena of FIU at MOAD

The beauty behind objects relies more on the meaning behind them than on the actual outside composition. However, particular objects are breathtaking on the outside with a fantastic story or purpose to add to the complexity of it. The dome of the Gesù Catholic Church is divinely composed of bright-colored crystals with a white bird spreading its wings in the middle. The contrast of the distinct shades of blue with the gold and orange, operate cohesively to draw attention to the figure in the middle. The white of the bird not only contrasts with the other colors but signifies purity and innocence.

Nevertheless, for visitors and devotees, it symbolizes God, and the havens. It represents the way through which celestial beings enter the church to bless those who are inside. Before learning about the meaning behind the piece, as I was examining the dome, I felt an extreme sense of peace and tranquility. I became a believer for a couple of minutes, feeling as if heavenly beings would emerge at any moment to reassure us that everything was going to be alright.

The position of the circle right on top of where the priests perform baptisms, communion, mass, and weddings makes the ordeal more substantial. Individuals pray on the seats which are located further back in the church, but once they conclude and walk towards the stage, it is as if their prayers have been answered instantly. The reason behind this process is that once you are able to look at the dome closely, no matter which problems you are facing, for a moment, at least everything is in the hands of God. It restores hope because nothing lasts forever, time heals, and God will not put loads on an individual if they cannot handle it.

As a non-believer of the purpose of the church, I was mesmerized at the feelings that ignited while looking at the dome and learning about its representation. It made me rethink many aspects of my life even when most of my problems are miniature compare to most individuals praying near me. I was remarkably affected by the dome, and I could only imagine how much more significant are the effects on believers.

Deering Estate as Text

Deering Estate (Photo by JW Bailly CC BY 4.O)

“The Peculiarity of the Deering Estate” by Laurent Garchitorena of FIU at Deering Estate

The Deering Estate is one of the most contrasting museums I have ever seen. Its history dates back several centuries, as revealed by the burial site of the Tequesta people, but it was also home for one of the first inns hundreds of years later. It is a place that connects individuals looking for inspiration and creativity to nature and what it has to offer. I have never been an artist or even enjoyed creating art as a form of entertainment. However, the Deering Estate seems like a magical place that would exploit the feelings and creativeness of even the least inventive individuals.

The singularity of the museum begins with the stories and the emotions they create on those visiting the area. Some spaces of the Deering State and their stories make visitors develop a feeling of eeriness, while in other sections, there is extreme tranquility and peace. Even through photographs, one of the areas that immediately drew me in due to its calmness is the Boat Basin. The sound and smell of the water, the breeze passing by, and the image of the manatees and birds following their typical routine entirely unwinds both body and mind.

Merely walking through the sides or sitting on the edge of the water clears the mind of any troubles for at least a couple of minutes. The atmosphere incites deep life reflections to develop, and individuals can find themselves reevaluating crucial life decisions. Finishing a tour of the museum at the Boat Basin creates a substantial contrast in emotions. From the peculiar and hazy past represented by the burial site to the calmness created by nature in the Boat Basin.

Miami Beach as Text

Miami Beach: (Photo by JW Bailly CC BY 4.0)

“Like no other Beach Town” by Laurent Garchitorena of FIU at Miami Beach

I had never indulged in the history of Miami Beach, what changes it went through, who were the architects, or the significance of it to different racial groups. However, I had always wondered why the buildings in South Beach were significantly different in height, shape, and color to other beach places all over Florida. As a Miami resident for more than ten years, I am over the craziness that comes with South Beach. When going to the beach, I prefer a calmer and more relaxed environment, such as the one provided in Sunny Isles Beach. This always made me think, why would everyone prefer South Beach with countless other and, in my opinion, better options. What was the big hype?

Although most young adults prefer going to the area because of the social and party scene, from a historical point of view, I can see the true worth of South Beach. Its unique buildings have a negative connotation for some whose ancestors were displaced from the area to make way for these buildings. However, many years later, others considered them an essential part of the city and did their power to prevent them from being demolished. When the typical stereotype of the party scene gets pushed back, and there is solely a focus on the colors and shapes of the buildings, it creates a mix of sensations. It begins to feel as if it wasn’t 2020, but instead a couple of decades back. It is essentially a real beach town focused on the interpersonal interactions instead of the now-familiar hotel vacations with servers tending to every need.

I will explore South Beach this summer, focusing not on the chaos but instead on the historical buildings and the impact they had on past generations who witnessed the drastic changes that ultimately lead to the area as we know it today.

History Miami as Text

(Photo Courtesy of HistoryMiami Museum ©)

“A Flow of Emotions” by Laurent Garchitorena of FIU at HistoryMiami Museum

The HistoryMiami Museum (HMM) wonderfully relates the story of Miami by presenting tools, photographs, stories, and artifacts that played a vital role in the development of many generations. The structure of the museum and the spacing of the pieces cohesively worked in each particular area to create a unique design to represent the specific era, event, or group of people being described. It was impactful to learn about how particular decisions and groups of people were able to change history and affect individual groups so profoundly for years to come. However, one of the objects of the collection that spoke the loudest to me was, without a doubt, the makeshift boats.

Not only does the makeshift boats and what they represent relate to me because I was born in Cuba, one of the countries most known for using this mode of transportation as a way of migration, but I utilized that method myself to reach the United States. Although the boat I embarked on was more upscale, my father tried coming to the US around eleven times in all sorts of crafts with even close friends dying in the journey. The boats presented in the museum instantly took me back to all those experiences I went through when I was around nine or ten years old. However, I felt proud that other individuals that haven’t been exposed to our story can obtain some information about it. Furthermore, it is a reassurance that the thousands and thousands of Cubans that died and continue to die in the course will not be forgotten.

I would feel proud to bring any of my family members or family friends to the museum to witness this piece among many because of the array of emotions it will generate. It would be a helpful and insightful experience and some closure that we are a part of history beyond ourselves, and we won’t be forgotten.

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