France Spring 2020 as Text: Sofia Aviles

Photo by Amanda Guerra (CC by 4.0)

Hi! My name name is Sofi Aviles and I’m currently a Junior at Florida International University. I’m a part of the Honors College and am pursuing a Bachelors in Finance with a certificate in International Trade and Investment. This summer I will be visiting France as a part of Bailly’s Study Abroad 2020 class.

Vizcaya as Text

Photo by Sofia Aviles (CC by 4.0)

Hidden Treasure” by: Sofia Aviles of FIU at Vizcaya Museum & Gardens on 1/31/20

Growing up in Miami, I have always thought of the city as a bubble. Separate from the rest of the United States with its own distinct melting pot culture, Miami as a city has a personality of its own with its strong Latin American influence and partying culture. However, I have also for most of my life, noticed the strong desire within Miamians to “fit in” and give off illusions of grandeur. Vizcaya is its own bubble within Miami. 

Secluded and hidden in the mangroves, Vizcaya transports you to Europe as you take the long walk along the fountains to Deering’s grandiose mansion. Dionysus welcomes its visitors at the door, encouraging them to indulge in all of life’s luxuries and serves as a representation of Miami’s partying culture. When you walk outside, there is an incredible view of the ocean and just next to it, the expansive gardens. Vizcaya has its own distinct features that make it very much its own like the sea shell mosaic in the outside gardens. Additionally, it replicates Miami’s diversity with its mix of Spanish, French, and Italian paintings and art styles throughout the property. As elaborate as the estate is, Deering is no exception to the ideal of wanting to “fit in” and putting on a mask of wealth and riches. While Deering wanted walls of marble, it would have been far too expensive so he opted to simply paint the walls, maintaining the illusion of marble. He even built his very own arc de triomphe, while having won no battles. Deering continues to show off with a built-in phone booth room within the mansion. He wanted to ensure that he left his mark and that his voice was heard, j’ai dit.

MOAD as Text

Photo by Sofia Aviles (CC by 4.0)

“Off to Neverland” by: Sofia Aviles of FIU at the Freedom Tower on 2/21/20

I come from a family of immigrants and growing up in Miami heard all kinds of stories from my family and my friends’ families coming to the U.S. for a better life. My mother was born in Porto Viejo, Ecuador in 1967, and did not grow up in the best part of town. Her parents got divorced early in her life, with my grandfather gaining full custody. However, my grandmother did not handle the divorce well and kidnapped her own children. She snuck my mother and my tía through Mexico and eventually got their citizenship granted. 

The Freedom Tower, the “Ellis Island of the South”, served as a beacon for the Cuban refugees fleeing Castro’s communist regime. The U.S. government had a program called Operation Pedro Pan which helped bring Cuban children to the U.S. From December 1960 to 1962, more than 14,000 unaccompanied children were sent from Cuba to Miami. These children became known as the Pedro Pan kids, reminding them that although they were leaving so much behind, they were off to “Neverland”, a place that had limitless possibilities and opportunities to achieve whatever they wanted. Between 1965 and 1973, Pan American World Airways began “Freedom Flights”, which kickstarted a massive influx of Cuban refugees bringing in over 175,000 Cubans. The first stop for all Cubans coming to Miami was to go to the Freedom Tower to receive aid in paper processing and relocating. 

Although the Freedom Tower is a symbol of Cuban heritage in the heart of Miami, it also serves as a symbol of hope for all immigrants. Dropping everything you own and know to move to an entirely different country is terrifying and daunting. Most immigrants face a multitude of challenges from language barriers to financial struggles to societal oppression. They battle all of these obstacles in the pursuit of just a single opportunity for themselves and their children. It often times is never easy, but immigrants constantly prove the value of determination and going after what you want.

South Beach as Text

Photo by Sofia Aviles (CC by 4.0)

“Evolution of South Beach” by: Sofia Aviles of FIU at South Beach

The only constant we all have in life is change. Everything around us is constantly growing and evolving. Change can be good for us, providing new ideas and perceptions. South Beach is the perfect example of a city that has been ever changing since its inception.

South Beach has not always been the glamorous tourist destination that it is today. Before its founder, Carl Fisher, South Beach was essentially a mangrove covered wasteland. He wanted a vacation destination and went to work building luxury hotels along the beach. Fisher marked one of the first major changes to the city, demarcating whites from blacks. The change he brought was great for the economy and publicity for the city, but hurt the community, especially the black community. As Fisher intended, South Beach became the popular destination for beachside resorts. The iconic Art Deco drew in crowds to admire the pastel colored architecture. However, this trend soon grew old and eventually the city turned into a retirement destination. Since then many different populations have occupied the city, most currently the Jewish community.

One thing that has remained constant throughout all the years of growth has been the preservation of the Art Deco Style. The style characterized by curved edges, window eyebrows, and vibrant colors is still reminiscent of the 1920s. This historical preservation could not have been done without Barbara Baer Capitman’s activism. She and Leonard Horowitz worked together to found the Miami Design Preservation League that has worked hard to maintain the iconic buildings of South Beach. 

South Beach has experienced lots of change in the last 100 years, so sometimes it is nice to be able to appreciate the history and what has made it so iconic. It is amazing to know that the bike rides I take down Ocean Drive are just like the ones my dad used to take when he was younger and hopefully will remain the same for years to come.

HistoryMiami as Text

Photo by Nicole Patrick (CC by 4.0)

Remembering Miami” by Sofia Aviles of FIU at South Beach

The history of a city is integral in truly understanding it. Although Miami may not be renowned for its extensive history as a city by others, the city’s story is unique and important. Some parts of the city’s history are not great, but it is crucial to reflect upon so that it doesn’t happen again. 

The HistoryMiami Museum takes you through Miami’s timeline chronologically starting from the beginning with fossils found in the Archaic Period to the Mariel Boatlift 1980. The Tequesta were the original inhabitants of Miami for a long period of time. Eventually, they were effectively taken over by the Spaniards. However, the Tequesta weren’t the only ones forced from their homes. The Seminole inhabitants faced genocide and were forced into leaving their sacred lands and migrate. Another particularly hard piece of Miami’s history is the period of segregation and discrimination. In the museum, there is the list of 12 names of black men that essentially built Miami. They were the only of many that were given voting rights before having to return to their usual discrimination. Additionally, there is an exhibit of a Buena Vista trolley from the 1920s that has a sign stating “State Law White Passengers Seat from Front.”

Unfortunately, a large portion of Miami’s history has consisted of dishonoring the people that came before us in the pursuit of industrialization. While these things cannot be changed, it is vital that we start making the effort to educate ourselves and others on why these things should not happen again or keep happening.

Deering Estate as Text

Photo by Nicole Patrick (CC by 4.0)

Discovering Miami’s Roots” by Sofia Aviles of FIU at South Beach

Prior to the Deering Estate Walking Tour, I had assumed Deering Estate only consisted of the Boat Basin. There are Deering’s former houses like Stone House and Richmond Cottage. I learned about all the wildlife on the property through the virtual Nature Preserve Tour.

Deering Estate is a part of Miami that removes you from the typical urban city life and allows you to embrace nature and a piece of Miami History. While on tour, you can learn about Miami’s oldest inhabitants, the Tequesta and paleo natives. Unfortunately, there is not a lot known of them as they were taken over by the Europeans. However, the tour takes a look into some of the tools they have uncovered as well as the burial mounds that they built. Additionally, you can learn about the fossils of some of the animals that used to roam the property long ago like dire wolves, saber tooth tigers, and mastodons. Also, during the tour is a large abandoned plane commonly known as the Cocaine Cowboys Plane. It crashed in the 1990s, but is still the center of myths about how it ended up in the mangroves of Deering Estate. Throughout the tour, it is important to be mindful about the solution holes throughout. These are common in hardwood hammocks and fill with water to protect itself from potential fires as well as provide homes for animals like alligators. 

While I wasn’t able to experience all of Deering Estate in person, I was still able to learn a lot about the property and will make sure to visit post-quarantine! The Deering Estate is the perfect escape from “typical” Miami. You can appreciate the nature and wildlife that they have worked hard to preserve. Also, you can take an in depth into the history of Miami that is not talked about enough. It is important to learn about the roots and history of where you come from. 

Leave a Reply