France Spring 2020 As Texts: Jorge Jacob

Jorge Jacob is currently an Honors college student at Florida International University pursuing a degree in Biochemistry. He has plans to graduate Fall 2020 with the idea of entering Medical school soon after in order achieve his goal of becoming a doctor. At the moment Jorge works at the FIU Mastery Math Lab and is involved in helping students learn multiple math concepts involving College Algebra, Precalculus, and Trigonometry. A few of his passions include playing video games, cooking, gardening, space exploration, and science. Found below are several reflections written about locations visited during the Spring 2020 France Study Abroad Program.

Vizcaya as Text

Top Left: Picture of the Vizcaya Gardens. Top right: Picture of the walkway Vizcaya Museum. Bottom: Picture of the front entrance to Vizcaya

“The Metamorphosis of Vizcaya”
By Jorge Jacob of FIU at Vizcaya Museum and Gardens

Vizcaya to me was always one of those touristy places that people on vacation come to see and that I as a Miami native didn’t need to visit. I was born in Miami, I’m not some out of state tourist that wants to see an old timey gilded age house and take pictures in some garden.

My first visit to Vizcaya is long forgotten to me as it was during my early childhood, but I can safely say that I did not take in anything that the museum had to offer to me.

My second visit to Vizcaya is far more recent but it involved treating Vizcaya as a setting rather than an event of importance. The occasion for the visit was for an anniversary date with my girlfriend; we drifted along the corridors and gardens of Vizcaya gazing and taking in the views but never looking further. We did not focus on what they meant or tried to emulate. The only idea formed was that we were stepping back in time and looking at an old house that was related to some guy named Deering. Of course, I was enamored by the big rooms and blatant displays of wealth that could be seen throughout the house, but I never questioned the why of it all, it was just a place I was visiting and having fun. One thing that always blew me away was the size of the garden and the feelings of serenity and grandiose that it seemed to project. Thinking back on this maybe Deering would have liked me as a guest at his house so that he could live off the feelings of amazement that I was giving off during my visit there, also so that he could humbly brag about his great winter house.

My most recent visit was an educational one involving a visit to Vizcaya with the sole purpose of getting to know the place in terms of both artistic value and the idea behind what made Vizcaya. Just by looking at Vizcaya, going through the house and gardens one can easily assume the person who made this place was wealthy beyond measure and this villa in the middle of the forest was meant to be a symbol of that wealth and the elitism emanating from that wealth. But as I learned throughout my tour of the premises Vizcaya was not only a display of wealth but a very blatant one that was means to show off various European cultural ideas together in a manner that pleased James Deering. The Vizcaya estate was the love child of the baroque, rococo, and neoclassical movements as these styles were all present over the house, although separated by room, and going from room to room the change in styles can clearly be seen. The baroque rooms filled with symmetry and organized structure with everything specifically placed, the rococo rooms having ornaments covering every possible inch of the walls and the organic ideas (flower painting and plant like décor) flowing throughout, the neoclassical rooms taking ideas from the past allowing for a rebirth of the classical ideas but with a new twist. All these styles although different were meshed well together in order to give Vizcaya that perfect feel of European culture in terms of style and hedonistic qualities. The house itself was astonishing in terms of furnishing alone but just because it references all these older styles of European origin that it did meant it was a house of the past as it contained heating and ventilation, two elevators, a dumbwaiter, refrigerators, an automated telephone switch board, a central vacuum-cleaning system and a partly automated laundry room. The next portion that has astounded me since I first laid eyes on it and is really my favorite portion of Vizcaya are the gardens and outside areas. There was so much that I missed in terms of my first visit where I had never noticed that the entire garden was made to be completely symmetrical, the histories of the secret garden, the grottoes that can be found all throughout the garden and the magnificent fountains, even though some were not turned on the message still came across. These gardens are meant to emulate the French and Italian gardens of Europe, an example would be the garden of Versailles copying the idea of symmetry and the maze area, essentially the idea of imposing order on nature. The trip was not a full tour of the premises, but it offered enough to plant a seed in one’s head that leads them to further think of what Vizcaya means as a house and as a cultural motif.

My next visit will be a thorough and thoughtful one, it will involve a slow walk through the house monitoring all the details and taking in the various reflections of ideas that can be found strewn upon the house. I will walk through each room thinking of the bigger picture going back in time and comparing the possible feelings held at the time Vizcaya was built and compare it to the feelings it invokes in me in the present. I will stroll through the gardens and sit in the grottos, imagine a play being performed in the garden theater, picture the fountains as fully function and really embrace the idea of the garden. I will be doing this next visit alone and it will simply be a conversation between Vizcaya and me.

Freedom Tower as Text

Photos taken at Miami Freedom Tower Museum

“The Eternal Search For Freedom”
By Jorge Jacob of FIU at Miami Freedom Tower

Freedom is defined as the power or right to act, speak, or think as one wants without hindrance or restraint

It is 1959, after years of fighting against a corrupt government led by dictator Fulgencio Batista finally change is coming. This change arrives in the form of Fidel Castro, who along with other fellow revolutionaries, had been leading the fight to overthrow the corrupt government. Castro with the support of the Cuban people was sworn in as the prime minister of Cuba, and soon he began making moves to change the governmental system. Although constantly publicly denying his changes as socialist or Marxist, Castro’s policies took great influence from these ideals. Private land was seized from both wealth and foreign landowners, redistributing it amongst citizens and itself. Production of commodities such as sugar and oil refinement were nationalized. There was a major emphasis placed on social projects especially education, healthcare, and infrastructure. Eventually Castro finally self-labeled himself as a Marx-Leninist and openly dealt with other communist countries such as the Soviet Union and Communist China. Although Castro’s policies were in favor of the working class and the Cuban people, the government itself was becoming very reminiscent of the Soviet Union in the manner of establishing a one-party state that had control of trade unions, a complete lack of freedom of press and speech, as well as a suppression of civil liberties. The major shift in priorities resulting from policy changes, improper fiscal management, and decrease in productivity due to middle class professional leaving led to the steep economic decline of Cuba and left its future in a fragile state. The fear developed over the course of the Castro administration was appropriate and lead to wanting to preserve the future.

This preservation of the future was seen in the form of protecting the children from the rise of Castro’s administration. Not only were the conditions in Cuba a worry for citizens but during Castro’s push for education there was a reform in educational strategies that involved the opening of youth camps, closing of secondary and private schools, and sending children to the Soviet Union to study different careers. This fear of governmental suppression and worsening conditions became so strong that many parents were thinking about performing the unthinkable, sending their children away, without knowledge of where they were going, from Cuba so that they may have a better future. The result of this sentiment was Operation Peter Pan in which over 14,000 children were flown from Cuba to Miami and other parts of the US to escape the Castro regime, with the operation only ending due to the end of all air travel between the US and Cuba due to the Cuban missile crisis. This to me is one of the craziest aspects of the peter pan flights in that parents would rather send their child away to unknown lands rather than have them stay any longer under the communist regime. These parents did not know if they would ever have the chance of seeing their children again but with the hopes of preserving the future they braved through the pain and managed to save their children. Family life was at the center of life in Cuba and yet both parents and children understood enough that in order to continue forward these bonds would need severed for a brief period of time and maybe even forever.

I am of Cuban descent and even though I may be young I can understand the struggles and fears that possibly went through their minds. Although, neither my father or grandfather were a part of the peter pan flights they were victims of the oppressive Castro regime and because of this oppression I understand their fight for freedom. My grandfather was taken as a political prisoner due to his opposition to the Castro regime but was luckily able to escape Cuba and get to Miami due to Castro trying to get rid of Cubans that opposed what he was doing. This left my father and his family without a father for a few years, but relatives and other people were able to help them out. This continues until my father reaches 18 years old where with help of my grandfather, he was able to get out of Cuba and take refuge in Panama, again in search of a better future and freedom. Since they managed to do this procedure legally, he was completely safe in Panama and Cuba had no rights to him as a Citizen, essentially, he was free from the Cuban regime, but the only issue was now getting to Miami. My father stayed in Panama over the course of 4 years working many different jobs and never giving up hope of reaching the US in order to reunite with my grandfather. This chance of getting to the US came through various immigration policies regarding Cubans that allowed them easier access into the US. Through these new policies my father was able to immigrate over to the US and join my grandfather in Miami. Once he arrived in Miami with the help of his father and relatives, especially one of his uncles, he managed to get a job, his driving license, a bank account, social security, health insurance, and many other necessities and paperwork that is needed for life in the US. Fast forward a few years later to my birth and current life, I am currently 21 years old and a citizen of the US, I live in a free country striving for greatness. At 21 years I am a little older than the age that my father left his country to completely start a new life in Panama and upon some reflection at this idea it amazes and humbles me; the experiences and struggles that my father has been through in the name of freedom have been extraordinary, these experiences are also seen in the peter pan flights.

Although I point out during this writing the experiences that some Cubans have lived through does not mean that this search for freedom is exclusive to them. Constantly people throughout the world exist with the yearning for freedom and many of them, like my father and the peter pan children, throw themselves with a leap of faith if only to experience this possibility of freedom. Due to my fathers yearn for freedom, I am a product of the Eternal search for freedom and I will never forget it.

Deering Estate As Text

Palau Maricel and Deering Estate (Photo: JW Bailly CC BY 4.0)

“The Visit I Long For”
By Jorge Jacob of FIU at Deering Estate Walking Tour

I first heard of the surname Deering when I was touring Vizcaya Museum and Gardens and during the tour it was mentioned that the Vizcaya estate belong to the late James Deering, an industrial executive in the Deering Harvester Company. I knew I had heard of this name before, but I didn’t remember what from, a quick google search answered my question and I saw that the Deering name was related to both the Deering Estate and Vizcaya. My naïve assumption was both the Deering Estate and Vizcaya were created by the same person, meaning that James Deering had two homes in Miami relatively close to each other. I came to this quick conclusion because the design styles of both locations are similar, they were built around the same time, they had the same oppressive building conditions, and there were similar ideas of nature preservation. When taking this new walking tour, I realized I was mistaken in my analysis with these 2 estates being built by James Deering and rather there were 2 different people and the reason they shared the same surname is because they were brothers. The true creator of the Deering Estate is Charles Deering and it makes some sort of sense seeing as they were brothers. Even though The Deering brothers shared similar outlooks in terms of designs and nature there is a major difference between Vizcaya and the Deering estate, which involves the history of the location and the state of nature found in the Deering estate.

Due to the Coronavirus quarantine a physical tour of the location is not possible at the writing of this piece and it pains me that I cannot explore this estate in a similar manner to how Vizcaya was explored. Sure, the online walking tour serves a reference and a guide through the facility but unlike Vizcaya I have not visited the Deering estate personally. The only optimistic point of view that can be taken is that a sense of longing has been placed into my heart and when the lockdown is over, I can explore this beautiful estate for myself. One of the major reasons I want to explore the Deering Estate is to see how it compares to Vizcaya in the overall scheme of things as they both embody the gilded age of the 1920s and that is reflected in each with the vast amount of wealth they display. Since the Deering estate cannot be entered, I will not try to compare the two and keep that feeling reserved for when I personally visit the Deering Estate. I will however discuss the Deering Estate individually. The starting point of the Deering estate is the Richmond cottage which was originally built in 1896 as a home for S.H. Richmond and his family, in 1899 a three story addition transformed the home area into an inn, and eventually it was bought by Charles Deering soon after closing its doors in 1915. For Charles Deering the amount of building was not enough and built the Stone House, modeled in a Mediterranean revival style, to house hide away his collection of liquor during the prohibition era, to showcase his large art collection, and to serve as a place to live out his remaining years with various locations around the house such as the balconies and windows to observe the beautiful nature around. One of the most interesting pieces of the Deering estate that calls out to me is the Boat Basin this is because of the almost 180 shift that has happened in the use of the basin, originally it was used to dock Charles Deering’s boats the Barbee and the Mar-y-cel acting as a safe harbor for them. Now it is a safe harbor for the various amounts of marine wildlife that exists ion the Biscayne bay area including manatees, sharks, turtles, rays, and even dolphins. This is one of the areas that one misses out on when not visiting the actual physical location as one does not feel the same even if looking at a picture. Another portion of the Dering estate that cannot be truly explored is the nature preserve tour as it takes you through the type of environment that Miami used to be before civilization finally conquered the land and not only does it provide a view of Miami in the past but it also contains a view of the Tequesta, a native population of Miami.

The biggest thing that draws me into this part of the Deering Estate is the history behind everything in the Deering Estate Nature preserve as it holds certain elements of Miami’s past. A big portion of that is the general atmosphere of the preserve in which one can experience the authentic fauna and flora of Miami that existed in Miami all those years ago. Looking at the walking tour there are certain locations that one can encounter that reflect Miami a big part of that is the mangrove areas, these are going to be large portions of mangrove trees with the roots all lifting out of the water and depending on where you find yourself there may be a freshwater spring. Another aspect of the local flora are the Hammocks which are forest habitats that are higher in elevation than the surrounding area, I have personally never seen a Hammock area, but I have heard about them in various literature. Something that caught my eyes was the fallen airplane that can be found crashed among the mangroves and as it is slowly consumed by the land it almost appears that it has always been there a part of the landscape. Another important part of the Deering Estate regarding its history is that the land that is currently the Deering estate was many years ago the home of the Tequesta. The Tequesta were a native population that lived in Miami long before the Europeans began exploring the western hemisphere and traces of their lifestyle can constantly be found among the Midden. One of the major artefacts that is known about are the burial mounds which is believed to contain around 12 to 18 Native Americans. These are all different areas I would have loved to see in person due to the rich history that exists here and how it is connected to the city of Miami, even though the Tequesta population went extinct so many years ago.

Once the quarantine lifts, I know for sure that the Deering estate will be one of the first places that I will visit, maybe even twice. The first time to get a feel of the Richmond cottage and Stone House and comparing it to the Vizcaya estate and the second time ignoring the aspects of the house and focusing on the rich nature preserve that exists close by.

South Beach As Text

“Life’s a Beach” By Jorge Jacob of FIU at South Beach Walking Tour

When you think about Miami, one of the major attractions that this city offers is the area of Miami Beach. In particular the southern part of Miami Beach as it contains the beautiful beaches, the architectural design of Art Deco, and many tourist destinations filled with glamour that have a way of catching your eyes. As a Miami native South Beach is a common location to hang out with friends, often I will find myself at the beach waiting for the sunrise and napping away on the sands. Another way I enjoy Miami beach is walking around taking in the view and looking for a good place to settle down and eat.

However, this is not the only way I have enjoyed throughout the years, one specific memory of mine is attending an architectural summer camp when I was younger and attending a field trip to Miami Beach. The reason for the field trip was to examine the very unique Art Deco designs that can be found littered throughout Miami Beach, the appeal of this design was a reflection of 20th century fascination with machinery. There are 10 specific aesthetic characteristics that are used in Art Deco which includes: the law of three, white facades with pastel highlights, ziggurat Rooflines, curved edges, eyebrows, porthole windows, relief art, neon, glass bricks, and terrazzo floors. The reflection of the fascination and faith in machinery represented luxury, glamour, and exuberance which all these adjectives can be used to describe the times in which Miami Beach was founded and continues to describe Miami Beach to this day.

Regarding the foundation of Miami, and by definition Miami Beach, I was surprised to find out how different it was environmentally compared to the current landscape. Not only the environmental differences but the history that the city experiences as it grew in population and attractiveness to new residents. The Miami of yesteryear was a multiracial small town that existed in not exactly a swamp environment but similar enough as it was surrounded by mangrove-populated barrier islands. However, the peace was disturbed with the arrival of the railroad as it brought with its new town developers, a big name in these developers was Carl Fisher who had a vision of creating a tourist resort in the area that is now Miami Beach. In order to create the land, the mangroves were cut down and the bay was dredged, this resulted in a massive loss of habitat for animals that relied on the freshwater springs created by the mangroves. Not only were the environmental aspects of Miami forever changed but the societal dynamics were also completely shifted as the previously cosmopolitan aspect of the city was disrupted. This came in the form of the Miami developers, including Carl Fishers but not limited to him, banning blacks from access to public beaches and eventually segregating them completely. Not only were the black community affected but the Jewish community as well, they were heavily discriminated against with many shops and stores having gentile only signs placed in their shops. It is crazy to think about the history of Miami Beach and realize that it was built on the destruction of native habitats as well as being very discriminatory for a long period of time. Currently today nothing much can be done about the destruction of native habitats as that would involve destroying the current Miami Beach and all the life that it brings to the city of Miami, but it should be noted that conservation efforts should be made for the other mangrove forests that still exist and can be protected. On a happier note Miami has been able to return to and further expand its cosmopolitan roots as discrimination was made illegal and all the groups that were forced to move out of the area were able to move back in including a new member. A big portion of south Miami is populated by Hispanic people originating form Latin American countries.

Overall, South Beach may represent many different things to many different people but something that most be done is acknowledge the history behind it, avoid repeating it and continue conservation efforts in other areas of Miami in which mangrove forests still exist.

HistoryMiami Museum As Text

“Those who do not learn history are…” By Jorge Jacob of FIU at HistoryMiami Museum Walking Tour

Doomed to repeat it. Although it may be a common idiom, it is a true statement, if one cannot reflect on the mistakes of their past, they are more than likely doomed to repeat their mistakes. This idea can be applied on a small to larger scale, a small example would be burning your food on the stove and the next time you cook you go through exact same steps resulting yet again with burned food. A larger scale example could be related to an army trying to perform a maneuver that had previously failed in the same scenario. Again these are just fake examples but the idea behind them is truth and that is why the study of history is vital not only to recognize your past but to also acknowledge it and if there were any failures try to correct them by setting up a new path that may lead to success, not by trying the same path that leads to failure.

Upon taking this class I realized something that left me stunned, I has never personally looked up the history of Miami and I have never properly been taught about the history of Miami as most history classes involved the general history of the world and general history of the united states. After looking through all the tour and ideas expressed in this class it has left me with a sense of curiosity planting a seed that will further push me to discover the deep and rich history of the place that I live in. Going back to the very first people that settled in the area of Miami we examine the Tequesta civilization, a population of native Americans that lived in the area around 2,000 years ago. There are various records of the Tequesta population and in fact various artifacts of this civilization can be found in the HistoryMiami Museum and even still in current areas of Miami such as at the Deering Estate in the Cutler Fossil Site. The Tequesta people lived in the Miami area doing their own thing until the discovery of America by the various European countries and around this time the civilization began dying out until the Tequesta population went extinct. During these time Southern Florida was ravaged by various wars occurring between the European nations vying for control. These wars were bad not only for the European themselves but the other native Americans around the area for example the Creek population was forced to migrate form the Southern Florida to the northern parts this was a big plus for Spain at the time who controlled most of Florida around the 1770s as it created a buffer between itself and the British colonies that also existed in America at the time. As time went on eventually the native American populations were pushed back and pioneers came down to settle in the state of Florida, specifically Southern Florida. When traveling down to the Miami area most of the Pioneers came by boat because it was the only way to reach South Florida this meant that many of the pioneers were left up the their own devices, causing them various struggles which may have led to the death of many early pioneers. Sometimes these pioneers would form relationships with the native populations enabling them to survive in the harsh early Miami area. As more and more pioneers came down to the Miami areas cities and towns began being built, these cities then attracted more and more people to come down and along with them they brought many new technologies. The many technologies that were brought included the railroad which allowed the development of Miami to occur quicker and easier. At long last in 1896, Miami was incorporated as a city and in fact many of those who voted for Miami to be incorporated as a city were Black. Even though the origins of Miami included a multiracial population there were many different people who had other ideas and as Miami became a more developed city these developers were able to pull of segregation tactics and essentially separating the black and white populations. This was especially upsetting since the original development of the Miami city and a good chunk of the people who voted to incorporate Miami as a city were now cast aside. Another community that was heavily affected and discriminated against was the Jewish population, who were also restricted in the places they can live, shop, and basically exist. One of the last expansions that caused a major shift in the history of Miami and Southern Florida itself was the influx of Cuban refuges throughout many years as they tried to avoid the Castro Regime that threated the Cuban populations way of life. The influx of Cubans brought over many different cultural ideas but they also took over some areas in Miami, for example the neighborhood of little Havana was once a Jewish neighborhood but with the incoming Cuban population and the Jewish population leaving the areas due to various factors, the predominately Jewish neighborhood became a predominately Cuban neighborhood.

Overall, Miami has a very rich history which should be examined and acknowledge so that we do not make the same mistakes as before, this includes the mistakes od discrimination felt by the Black and Jewish populations and the habitat destruction that has occurred throughout Miami.

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