MIM Ineffable Miami: South Beach by Vivian Acosta

BIOGRAPHY


South Pointe Pier, South Beach. Photo by Xavier Osorio CC BY 4.0

My name is Vivian Acosta, and I am currently a junior at Florida International University pursuing a degree in psychology. My goal is to one day help people recover from emotional and psychological traumas and help improve their well-being. I was born and raised in a small city in Honduras, and I recently moved to Miami to attend college. I am still adapting to the city’s fast pace; however, I enjoy the diversity of Miami, and I delight in learning about the different cultures this city holds.

GEOGRAPHY

Retrieved from Google Maps

South Beach is a neighborhood located in the southernmost section of Miami Beach, a natural and partially man-made barrier island. The city runs south from Dade Boulevard and 24th street, down to South Pointe. South Beach lies between two bodies of water, Biscayne Bay to the west and the Atlantic Ocean to the east (“South Beach” 2020). South Beach is to the east of mainland Miami, and Biscayne Bay lies between them—several bridges and roads connect the two scenic cities.

To the East of South Beach, you will find the beautiful beach crowded with tourists and locals. You will also come across some of the most authentic Art Deco buildings, bars, clubs, and restaurants. From the west side of South Beach, you can appreciate a breathtaking view of Biscayne Bay with ships navigating regularly. The greenery on this side of the city suits the family-friendly atmosphere.

Due to South Beach’s low-lying topography and the rising sea levels, South Beach is prone to inundation; therefore, the city is continuously planning on new ways to prevent flooding. The city takes proactive measures to stall and prevent inconveniences. Dredging sand to fill the beach is a common practice in South Beach since the island is not a completely natural occurring geographical future; however, this may not be enough for the threats the future holds.

HISTORY

South Beach was once a narrow barrier island dominated by thick mangrove growth (“Make Miami History Now”). Miamians enjoyed a day at the beach long before South Beach was officially a city. A ferry boat used to disembark in the southern tip of the bayfront, and passengers would walk across a wooden ramp through overgrown bushes over to the ocean side (“The Man Who Built Miami Beach – YouTube”).

Cutting down mangrove forests (1914). [Glass transparency, black and white (3.25 x 4 in). Lc405. La Coe Collection, Florida State Photo Archive.

It took a lot of work to get where the city is at today. To begin with South Beach’s transformation, the land had to be cleared first. The tall mangroves at the bayside were cut down, channels were deepened, and the area was filled with soil. All of this work was done by laborers who worked under the oppressive heat, were exposed to mosquitoes, and were overworked (Munzenrieder 2019).

In 1870, Henry and Charles Lum purchased 165 acres of land for 25cents an acre. They used this land as a coconut plantation. Unfortunately, their coconut farmland failed because rodents ate the coconuts. Henry and Charles Lum realized that their plantation was unprofitable, so they left the plantation in control of John Collins and left the island in 1894. Two years later, John Collins arrived at South Beach to survey the area.

In 1907, Collins discovered native plants, which meant that there was fresh water on the island; consequently, he decided to plant avocadoes along with other exotic fruits. Collins became a great fruit cultivator. He Dredged a canal starting where his crops were to Biscayne Bay; this facilitated the transportation of his produce to Miami—from there, they were shipped to different destinations through Flagler’s railroad (“South Beach” 2020).

In 1913, John Collins built The Collins Bridge, which connected Miami to Miami Beach. This project was financed by several investors, including entrepreneur Carl Fisher (“Opening of the Collins Bridge” 2019). The Collins Bridge was later replaced by the Venetian Causeway. The Collins Bridge was one of the sparks that ignited Miami Beaches’ growth.

In 1913, Carl G. Fisher moved to the beach. He envisioned Miami Beach as an independent City. Two years later, on March 26, 1915, the Town of Miami Beach was incorporated (“South Beach” 2020).

By 1920, South Beach’s main streets were suitable for automobile traffic, the population was growing, and the city’s boom began. Ten years later, South Beach Art Deco architecture took over the city! The city continued to flourish over the years, and new hotels and resorts were built to attract more tourism. Unfortunately, by the 1970s, South Beach was no longer a desired vacation destination. Tourists began to choose other places to visit.

Hotel owners began catering to middle-to-lower class retirees to compensate for the absence of tourists. Simultaneously, illicit drug activities began to take hold on the beach. Suddenly, South Beach became the opposite of the city’s original essence.

Barbara Baer Capitman Memorial. Photo by John Bailly CC BY 4.0

Developers began to demolish some of the old, but unique, Art Deco buildings in an attempt to save the city’s tourism. Luckily, the Art Deco style was saved by Barbara Capitman (1980) along with other community activists. It wasn’t until the 1980s that South Beach revived and became once again a must-visit spot. Today, South Beach is on the National Register of Historic Places, with its Art Deco buildings being a symbolic aspect of the popular city.

Segregation
Before the Civil Rights era:

African Americans were not allowed to live in Miami Beach, and if they worked there, they needed a pass issued by the police. They were allowed to visit some beaches on Mondays, and they were banned from others. Even African American entertainers who were hired to perform in hotels were required to stay the night in Overtown.
Jews were also victims of discrimination. Jews were only allowed to live South of Fifth street, and it was common to come across “gentiles only” signs among local businesses. Anti-Semitism was officially outlawed in 1949 (Munzenrieder 2019).

DEMOGRAPHICS

As of 2017, three thousand six hundred eighty (3,680) people are residing in South Beach. The population density is 1,224 per square mile, which is 198% higher than the Florida average. The ethnic composition of South Beach’s population is composed of ninety-six and a half percent (96.5%) Whites, two-point forty-eight (2.48%) Hispanic or Latino, and one point zero one percent (1.01%) other. The median household income of $104,613 and the median age of people in South Beach is 66 years old (“Miami Beach, FL”).

About Xavier Osorio (a South Beach Resident)

Xavier Osorio and Tankie. Photo by Vivian Acosta CC BY 4.0

Xavier Osorio is an FIU alumnus. He has been residing in South Beach for twelve years. He enjoys attending yoga classes at South Pointe Park, going for runs on the beach, and walking Tankie, his American Bulldog, on the bayside.

Interview:

Vivian Acosta: What’s your favorite aspect of South Beach?

Xavier: I really enjoy how there’s always something happening in the city. Different events throughout the year, specifically in Ocean Drive and Lincoln road.

Vivian Acosta: What’s your least favorite aspect?

Xavier: Sometimes, it feels overcrowded, especially when big events are happening. South Beach is known for its lively nightlife, but sometimes people get out of control. Sometimes we even feel unsafe in our own neighborhood because of riots caused by drunk people.

Vivian: What is your favorite spot in the city?

Xavier: My favorite place in South Beach is the Standard Hotel! The standard is a spa, hotel, and restaurant. It has a fun environment, and when you step into that place, you feel like you are somewhere else. There’s a terrace near the water with an outdoor restaurant and bar. Next to it, there is a pool that only hotel guests and spa members can use. It has three different gardens with comfortable seating areas to relax, rest, and meditate.

Vivian: What’s your least favorite spot in the city?

Xavier: Least favorite is Washington Avenue. It’s become very dirty, and a lot of businesses are closing. It looks depressing compared to the rest of SoBe (South Beach). Washington Avenue, between 9th and 5th, is under construction. No businesses are open. It looks like a ghost town. Between 10th and 14th, there’s a lot of foot traffic. Most shootings have happened on Washington Avenue. Unfortunately, it has become one of the least calm parts of the beach, and I like calm and peaceful spaces. That’s why I live in West Avenue–it’s more of a neighborhood area. It’s tranquil.

Vivian Acosta: Is the cost of living high?

Xavier: The cost of living is very high. You are paying for the location definitely. The closer to the water, the more expensive. For what you pay for a nice 1-bedroom apartment here, you could be renting a house on the mainland.
Most people live in apartments in South Beach. There aren’t many houses here. All the neighborhoods with houses start around Alton and 25th—that is in Miami Beach. 

Vivian Acosta: Is parking overwhelming?

Xavier: It is if you don’t have an assigned parking where you live. Finding parking can be overwhelming. Parking is also expensive—$ 4 an hour for steer parking. If you are a Miami Beach resident, you can register your car plate and only pay $1 an hour.
You also can get residential parking depending on where you live. Anyone can park in residential parking from 9-5. Outside that window, if you don’t have a permit, you get towed. Sometimes it’s hard finding parking because tourists come and take all the parking. They also get towed!
Towing companies are a huge business here. It costs approximately $250 to get your car back.

Vivian: What about traffic, is that overwhelming?

Xavier: Traffic is bad only when there are events on the beach: Halloween, Christmas, New Year, 4th of July.
A lot of people work on the beach or come to visit, so traffic into the island is very heavy, usually in the morning and late afternoon. 

Vivian: Overall, do you enjoy living in South Beach?

Xavier: Yes, I really enjoy living here. I like the city’s diversity, the atmosphere, and the scenery.

LANDMARKS

The Holocaust Memorial

The Holocaust Memorial commemorates the 6 million Jews whose lives were taken away during World War II. This monument tells a heartbreaking, but real story through a series of sculptures. The sculptures’ facial expressions, along with their body language, easily communicate the fear, the pain, and the helplessness that the victims experienced during this tragic event in history.

  • The First Sculpture
    The First Sculpture is a sculpture of a mother comforting two children. They seem scared– they noticed signs of the holocaust beginning to appear (“Holocaust Memorial Miami Beach: The Memorial in Pictures”).
  • The Sculpture of Love and Anguish
    The Sculpture of Love and Anguish is a sculpture of a 42-foot tall outstretched arm protruding from the ground and reaching out to the sky. At its base, about 100 figures surround the hand. The figures seem to be desperately asking for help.
    The different figures represent the people helping each other, showing their love, their compassion, even though they were all suffering the anguish of the Holocaust.
  • The Final Sculpture
    This piece depicts the mother and the two children that are encountered at the beginning of the monument. We see what the end of their journey came to be…The bodies of the mother and the two children lye under an Anne Frank quote: “Ideals, dreams and cherished hopes rise within us only to meet the horrible truths and be shattered.”

Many people don’t enjoy how graphic the sculptures are. However, in my opinion, even though the sculptures may cause discomfort, it is acceptable to portray the Holocaust in such a way, so we can better understand the gruesome truth.

Española Way

Española Way, South Beach. Photo by Hubo CC BY-SA 3.0

Española way is a two-block corridor located between Washington and Pennsylvania Avenues. This pedestrian street was designed to resemble Mediterranean villages in France and Spain. Española Way was the first commercial development on Miami Beach in the 1920s (“Española Way”). It was a popular meeting place built for the wealthy to dine and dance. Española Way was also a gambling spot for many notorious men such as Al Capone, who used to play in the Clay Hotel. Today, Española Way remains a popular spot to visit in South Beach (Harris & Gillespie 2016). The peach-colored buildings are mainly restaurants, hotels, and shops.

Art Deco Museum

Miami South Beach Art Deco Welcome Center by D Ramey Logan.jpg from Wikimedia Commons.
Photo by D Ramey LoganCC-BY 4.0

South Beach counts with the world’s biggest concentration of Art Deco architecture. There are about 900 historic buildings in the city. Art Deco buildings were almost demolished and replaced with condos and new buildings due to the lack of attention they received. Luckily, Barbara Capitman, along with other activists, prevented that from happening.

The Art Deco Museum informs tourists and locals about the different architectural styles they will encounter in the city and how the city got to where it is at today. Visitors of the museum will leave having a better understanding of the three main types of architecture in the city: Art Deco, Mediterranean Revival, and Miami Modern (MiMo). Visitors can go out and challenge their knowledge by identifying the architecture of the different buildings in the city.

According to the Art Deco Museum, these are some of the features that characterize the Art Deco, the Mediterranean Revival, and the MiMo style:

  • Art Deco
Leslie, South Beach. Photo by John Bailly CC BY 4.0

Characteristics of Art Deco architecture:
– Over-all symmetry            
– Glass block            
– Decorative sculptural panels      
– Eyebrows                               
– Terrazzo floors  
– Round porthole windows
– Curved edges and corners
– Elements in groups of three  
– Neon lighting (exteriors & interiors)

  • Mediterranean Revival                                                                                                       

Characteristics of Mediterranean Revival architecture:
– Mediterranean Revival buildings evoke an Old-World image      
– Decorative columns
– Wrought iron and spindle gates guarding                                        
– Arched windows                              
– Rough stucco walls picturesque courtyards                                     
– Clay barrel tile roofs

  • Miami Modern (MiMo)

Characteristics of MiMo architecture:
– Asymmetry and rakish angles         
– Cheese hole cutouts
– Kidney and amoeba shapes
– Futuristic jet and space age forms
– Mosaic murals            
– Anodized aluminum in gold/copper.

GREEN

South Pointe Park

South Pointe Park is a 17-acre park located at the southernmost tip of South Beach. It is a family-friendly spot that offers a breathtaking view of South Beach’s shoreline, Fisher Island, Downtown Miami, Biscayne Bay, and cruise ships passing across the channel, finding their way to the sea. This park counts with a kids’ area, a dog park, outdoor showers, places where you can grab a snack, and a pier!

The tall palm trees, the lush green grass, and the beautiful scenery attracts tourists and locals and encourages them to spend time outdoors.

Flamingo Park

Flamingo Park is a 36-acre park that counts with several amenities for the whole family! Many people come here to exercise, play sports, walk their pets, or spend quality time outdoors. In Flamingo Park, you can spend the day doing a variety of activities. Some of the amenities that this park offers include a bark park where dogs can play and meet friends, an aquatic facility with two pool areas, a tot lot where kids can have fun, exercise, and make friends. It also features several sports fields: a baseball stadium, basketball courts, a football stadium, a running track, softball fields, soccer fields, and a tennis center.

TRANSPORTATION

Some fun ways to get around the city:

Walking

South Beach is pedestrian friendly. A pedestrian can go from where the city begins, Dade Boulevard, to where it ends, South Pointe, and take approximately 45 minutes! Because of the beautiful scenery, the nice weather, and the proximity of the places, tourists and locals choose to walk to their destinations.

Citi Bike

Citi Bike Station, South beach. Photo by Cristo Vlahos CC BY-SA 4.0

Citi Bike is a bike rental program Miami Beach offers. It’s a convenient and fun way to explore the city, get some exercise done, and even run errands! Citi Bike provides about 1,000 bikes at different bike stations around Miami Beach. The way Citi Bike works is simple! First, you have to unlock a bike from any Citi Bike Station, then, you’re able to ride the bike to wherever you want, and finally, whenever you’re done, you have to return it to any Citi Bike station near you. As for the pricing, you have the option to get a monthly membership ($15) or an hourly rental ($6.50).

Swoop Miami

Swoop Miami is a six-passenger electric golf cart that takes people anywhere in South Beach at no cost! All you have to do is send them your location via text or call 305-900-6367 and wait approximately 15 minutes.

The Miami Beach Trolley -South Beach Loop

The City of Miami Beach Offers a free trolley system. The South Beach Trolley offers three routes, all happening simultaneously. Loop A and Loop B run in opposite directions, but they are the same routes. The trolley makes stops in Lincoln Road, Española Way, South Pointe, and many other hotspots. To catch a trolley, you will have to wait approximately 15 minutes at one of their stops. They are available from Monday to Saturday from 6 am to midnight, and Sundays from 8 am to midnight.

FOOD

Under The Mango Tree

Under the Mango Tree is a great spot to grab a healthy snack and a freshly made smoothie! Their menu is vegetarian and vegan friendly. Some of their specialties include bowls, juices, coffee, tea, sandwiches, and smoothies. The staff is friendly and attentive. The best part about Under the Mango Tree, aside from the delicious smoothies and excellent service, is their decoration. The place is decorated in a bohemian and tropical style. It is decorated with plants, candles, and hanging light bulbs. Under the Mango tree gets its name from the tall mango tree inside the shop. This authentic gem is a must visit in South Beach.

David’s Cafecito Café

David’s Cafecito Cafe is a restaurant owned by the Gonzales family, and it has been around for 40 years! Three generations of the Gonzales family have had the opportunity to assist the family business. They serve Cuban plates, pastries, and—of course—Cafecito! David’s Cafecito Café is a community gathering spot where people go to enjoy a meal or just a coladita!

Plant Theory Botanical Burgers

Plant theory is a vegan cafe located inside the Whitelaw hotel. Their menu offers a variety of healthy and delicious options such as smoothies, juice, burgers, nachos, salads, and crepes. Every dish is prepared with fresh produce and served by friendly and Earth-conscious staff.

BUSINESSES

Lincoln Road Farmers’ Market

On Sundays from 9 am to 6:30 pm, you will find lined stalls in Lincoln Road. Many local purveyors take their fresh products, delicious snacks, and unique items to the pedestrian-friendly street to sell to locals and visitors. A variety of items are sold in Lincoln Road Farmer’s Market. Many locals enjoy starting their Sunday mornings by visiting the Farmer’s Market and picking up some fresh produce, flowers, spices, honey, jams, among other goodies!

Synergy

Synergy Yoga Class, South Beach. Photo by Derrick Higgins CC BY 4.0

Synergy is a yoga and healing center in South Beach. It opened about twenty-five years ago and was the first yoga center to open in Miami Beach. Synergy’s purpose is to bring health, happiness, and light to its members.

The Cat Café South Beach

The Cat Café is a coffee shop that serves coffee and desserts, but that’s not all… They are also a foster home for cats rescued from the streets of Miami Beach! This café is an authentic spot to visit, where you will enjoy the company of approximately twenty-six cats! The place is immaculate, and the cats live in a ‘purradise.’ A wall with glass windows separates the coffee area and the cats.

 I was curious as to why there are so many stray cats, more than 150,000, in Miami Beach. The Cat Café staff informed me that many years ago, cats were brought to Miami Beach to control the overpopulation of rats. The felines accomplished their task; however, now there is an overpopulation of cats! The Cat Café rescues cats and gives them a home where they wait to get adopted.

SUMMARY

South Beach went from being a small-town resort to a great city! This city is a year-round tourist destination. Is it because of the beach? The weather? The events? The atmosphere? The correct answer is all of the above! South Beach has numerous features that attract tourists and pamper locals. One of the city’s main attraction is the beautiful beach, of course! The tropical environment gives off summer vibes all year round! The city does a great job of highlighting its main attraction by creating an atmosphere that matches the beach, the skies, and the weather!

Starting with the lovely pastel-colored buildings gazing at the sea from Ocean Drive. The Art Deco architecture represents luxury, exuberance, and glamour—three adjectives that are also descriptive of South Beach. The Art Deco buildings are well-preserved, not only to make the city stand out but also to conserve a part of the city’s heritage. There are stringent rules when it comes to constructions and renovations in South Beach, which is positive in a sense, but it also has a negative side to it. Many locals complain about how the “old buildings” may be a safety hazard. It is difficult to do much with the strict restrictions the city has when it comes to construction.

South Beach is filled with diversity, but I don’t sense any divisions- there’s nothing but acceptance and pride in here. This city is home to immigrants, tourists, people of all ages, and the LGBTQ Community. In South Beach, differences are embraced, which makes the atmosphere unique.

Locals and tourists find it more practical to walk than to drive within the city. Most roads in South Beach are narrow, the speed limits are low because drivers have to be aware of pedestrians and cyclists, and constructions in the streets are common, which causes traffic to form! Parking is also an aspect that visitors and many locals find impractical. If you park at a random spot in South Beach, there is a high probability that your car will get towed. Since the city gets overcrowded, finding a good parking spot in the street is often unlikely. Therefore, walking may be a better option!

There is always something interesting going on in South Beach– annual events, holiday parties, and entertaining activities throughout the week, to name a few. Many tourists from all over the world come to attend these events. Miamians also enjoy spending the day at the beach or partying during the night. Locals enjoy the company, as long as the party doesn’t get too wild. When the city gets overcrowded, robberies, hate crimes, and assaults also rise. However, South Beach is considered a safe city: the overall crime rate in South Beach is 80% lower than the national average (Areavibes “Miami Beach, FL Crime” https://www.areavibes.com/miami+beach-fl/crime/).

After surveying South Beach, my final thoughts were, “can I move here?”; however, I then remembered the high cost of living, and I immediately changed my mind. This city’s cost of living is above the United States’ average cost of living– But hey, living in a paradise does not come at a low price!

Works Cited

Areavibes. “Miami Beach, FL Crime.” Miami Beach, FL Crime Rates & Crime Map,   www.areavibes.com/miamibeach-fl/crime/

“Española Way – Restaurants, Shopping, and Entertainment.” Espanola Way,      visitespanolaway.com/

Harris, Ginger, and Casey Gillespie. “Espanola Way: A Very Different South Beach.” South      Beach Magazine, 20 Nov. 2016, http://www.southbeachmagazine.com/espanola-way/

“Holocaust Memorial Miami Beach: The Memorial in Pictures.” The Holocaust Memorial of     Miami Beach, holocaustmemorialmiamibeach.org/photos/the_memorial_in_pictures/

Make Miami History Now, miamiherald.typepad.com/make_miami_history_now/2013/12/who   was-a-landowner-on-miami-beach-in-the-1880s-and-what-did-he-do-there.html

“Miami Beach, FL.” Data USA, datausa.io/profile/geo/miami-beach-fl/

Munzenrieder, Kyle. “100 Years: The Dark and Dirty History of Miami Beach.” Miami New     Times, 4, 21 Oct. 2019, http://www.miaminewtimes.com/news/100-years-the-dark-and-dirty history-of-miami-beach-7552169

“Museum.” Miami Design Preservation League, mdpl.org/welcome-center/art-deco-museum/

“Opening of the Collins Bridge.” Florida Historical Society, 31 Mar. 2019,         myfloridahistory.org/date-in-history/june-12-1913/opening-collins-bridge

“South Beach.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 19 Mar. 2020, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/South_Beach

The Man Who Built Miami Beach – YouTube. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n5tAn5ontyk

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