Italia as Texts Spring 2020: Karina Luis

Photo by Arlene Luis CC BY 4.0

Karina Luis is a junior at Florida International University’s Honors College majoring in Psychology and Sociology. She is interested in a variety of things including art, music, and travel but her main goal in life is to help people. She hopes to become an ABA therapist where she can help children. Karina will be graduating in 2022, and is currently enrolled in the Honors College Italy Study Abroad course, and below are her as text posts.

Vizcaya as Text

Photo by Karina Luis CC BY 4.0

“Vizcaya or Europe in Miami?” by Karina Luis of FIU at Vizcaya Museum and Gardens

Vizcaya Museum and Gardens is a perfect example of how important European influences have been on the formation of certain staples that we have adopted to be our very own. Vizcaya itself was originally created to be the home of the very wealthy James Deering, where he could be as extravagant as possible, exemplifying these European influences in a westernized context. This was the first time that I have ever been to Vizcaya, which is surprising being that I am a Miami Native. However, I do have to say that I was truly impressed. There are so many details everywhere that I did not know where to look first. One thing is for sure, James Deering and Paul Chalfin did not hesitate in spending as much money as they could in making this James Deering’s very own Europe in Miami. From the stained glass windows and the beautiful paintings to the various sculptures and lush gardens, Vizcaya displays various ornamental and lavish styles adopted from European periods such as the Renaissance and Baroque era, while also displaying Mediterranean influences.

Even though it does seem like someone airlifted a chunk of Europe and dropped it right into Coconut Grove, Vizcaya does really fit into Miami, especially through its style. Miami is anything but boring, we are known for being as “extra” as we can be. In the very entrance of the mansion, there is even a statue and fountain paying homage to the Roman God Bacchus/ Greek God Dionysus who is the god of agriculture and wine. To me, it seems like John Deering and Paul Chalfin knew exactly what they were doing when they were decorating Vizcaya and they both decided to do as much as they could just to show how wealthy John Deering was.  I do not necessarily think that he had a profound love for the arts, one of my reasons being that there is a religious painting, above the organ in one of the rooms, that was cut in half. I, being the lover of art that I am, felt my heart sink at the very instant of hearing that. He also has many things for show, such as the bookcase in his office that does not have the thickness to even hold any real books and a painting of children when he had none.

That being said, I do think that Vizcaya and its Gardens is a work of art, and highly innovative for its time. The creators did not stop until they got Vizcaya to be everything they wanted and more. If they could not have the marble, they painted it, if they thought that a sculpture, such as the mermaid on the barge, was not perfect, they asked for it to be redone. Even though I may not agree with all of the choices that were made in the decoration and the construction of Vizcaya, I do have high respect for every single person who participated in making it what it is today, allowing all Miamians to have our very own taste of Europe in our backyard, and I also believe that it should be appreciated for the masterpiece that it truly is.

MOAD as Text

Photo by Karina Luis CC BY 4.0

“A New World, a New Life” by Karina Luis of FIU at The Museum of Art and Design

The Museum of Art and Design at Miami Dade College is located inside Miami’s well-known landmark, the Freedom Tower. Being of Cuban heritage, the Freedom Tower is something very well known to me. My grandparents all passed through there when they first arrived in the United States from Cuba. Though they all arrived at different times, they all share a part in the grand story of the Cuban exile. I had never been to the Freedom Tower prior to this visit which was interesting because of how important a role that it has played in my life. This landmark has been known to be the Ellis Island for Cubans, and I walked into this building with the knowledge and the weight of everything that my family has ever gone through to give me the life that I have today.

The Freedom Tower was the processing and reception center for Cuban exiles from 1962 to 1974. During this time, operation Peter Pan was occurring where thousands of unaccompanied Cuban children came to the United States to start their new lives. As seen in the photo above, are the faces of some of those children, and this really did impact me the most and stand out to me the most on my visit to the Museum of Art and Design. This entire museum displays the various obstacles and turmoil that all forms of immigrants had to go through, but it makes it so much more real to see the faces so many people that went through the exact same thing that my family went through. I cannot even imagine how difficult it would be to leave everything that you know behind, including your family and the people that you love in order to start a life away from all of the damage that the Castro Regime has caused. Seeing a Cuban flag proudly displayed outside of the building itself just reminded me that my ancestors walked the very steps that I was about to walk inside of the building, and that is all I could think about as I walked through the halls of the tower. This tower is a symbol of my life, and the name says it itself, the freedom that I have been gifted by the people who have walked through those halls before me. 

History Miami as Text

“South Florida through a New Lens” by Karina Luis of FIU at HistoryMiami Museum

The HistoryMiami Museum, as one can tell by its name, is a museum located in the heart of downtown Miami, which depicts the history of our city not shying away from the truth of it. At times, history is depicted in a way that sees things through rose-colored lenses, where one party is depicted as being almost heroic in a sense, having done things the right way all along. However, this museum makes it a point to display all aspects of Miami’s history in order to fully understand the past as we move into the city’s future. This museum was founded in 1940 by the Historical Association of Southern Florida and since the year 1979, after it was accredited by the American Alliance of Museums, it has been associated with the Smithsonian Institution. One of the main exhibits is the “Tropical Dreams: A People’s History of South Florida,” which describes, in chronological order, the history of South Florida from the Pre-Columbian era to now. It includes artistic depictions of early settlements, as well as archeological evidence of tools, and replicas.

The archeological evidence found includes that from the Tequesta’s. Specifically, one of the parts of the exhibits that I found most interesting was that of the “Miami Circle.” This was a circle of holes found in bedrock, which dated up to 2,000 years ago and archeologists believe that this was built by the Tequesta for either ceremonial or political purposes. I have always found historic sites like this very interesting, so I loved learning that one of these existed near our very own Miami River. Learning about the Tequesta was very interesting because of how even though they inhabited South Florida for centuries, by the time the Spanish and Seminoles arrived they were no longer in South Florida. Another part of the museum that I enjoyed learning about was the portion that had the 1920’s trolleys. This was very interesting to see how the museum had a real trolley that used to be used here in Miami. Even though I have not personally been to this museum, I think that this museum is not only an important aspect of Miami, but also important in understanding South Florida’s history in order to have developed a sense of understanding and appreciation for how we got to where we are now. 

Deering Estate as Text

“Nature and Nurture of the Deering Estate” by Karina Luis of FIU at Deering Estate

The Deering Estate is a historical site and cultural asset that was once the home of Charles Deering. Originally, due to the efforts of archeologists, the land itself is seen to contain evidence of the Tequesta and Paleo-Indians. There has been evidence that there once was a Tequesta community living on the land of the Deering Estate, Hundred of tools have been found and even a burial mound. Here, there is seen to be a large 400-600-year-old Oak Tree that is over with around 12-18 Tequesta buried here. I find these burial rituals very interesting, especially how they are buried in a circular formation. There is also the Tequesta Midden, where you can find pieces of Tequesta tools in the ground, this is only accessible when accompanied by staff of the Deering Estate. The Tequesta were an important part of the history of South Florida, so it is interesting to see all of the different archeological evidence that they left behind even if they disappeared.

One of the important aspects to note about Deering Estate is how lush and green it is. The Deering Estate Nature Preserve contains abundant wildlife, trees, mangroves, etc. and there is also access to Biscayne Bay from multiple points. The People’s Dock is a free access point to Key Biscayne. Deering Point is another free access point with free boat launch and beautiful views. I did not even know that these points existed at all and will definitely be paying a visit to get the breeze of Key Biscayne and the serenity of the land. As for the greenery, tropical habitats can be seen containing dozens of plant and tree species mainly consisting of those found in the Caribbean islands. Interestingly, amongst the Mangroves, there is seen to be an airplane from a crash in the 1990s. I think the Deering estate, as well as with all of the history that it contains, is a great place to be in nature, and though I have never been, I feel as if I had and will be making planes to visit in the future. 

South Beach as Text

“The Art of South Beach” by Karina Luis of FIU at South Beach

South Beach is somewhere, that I have always gone to in Miami throughout all of the years that I have lived here, however, I never have really learned about its history including its famous art deco style. I personally think that the art deco style is fascinating, and beautiful. It is very unique with its linear style resembling very sleek and machine-like designs. There are several factors that are incorporated into this design and are influenced by Mesoamerican and Mesopotamian design. One of the main elements is the Law of Three, this is incorporated into many other things in life with items looking more appealing in threes. This can be seen in this design with buildings being three stories tall, and divided into three facades. In terms of color the facades are usually painted white with pastel accents and highlights. These delicate colors reflect the environment that the buildings are in. 

Neon lights also bring in another dimension of color and bring something to the nightlife of South Beach. The 1930’s neon adds to the fun atmosphere seen in south beach and goes well with the characteristic new building design. I think that the neon alongside the pastel colors is highly characteristic of this Miami Beach art deco style. Interestingly in this style, though very machinelike, circular and rounded aspects are incorporated. This can be seen with the curved edges and the porthole windows. South Beach, is one of my favorite areas to be in Miami, with its design on Ocean Drive especially, it brings a light and airy atmosphere to the beach, the blends in perfectly to the water and the nightlife that can be seen there.

Leave a Reply