Italia Spring 2020 Ineffable Miami: Palmetto Bay by Christina Fernandez

Biography

Christina Fernandez is a second-year student at the Honors College at Florida International University majoring in International Business and Marketing. She is looking forward to graduating in the Fall of 2021 and initiating her career in Business. Below is her detailed reflection on the village of Palmetto Bay.

Geography

Map retrieved from Google Maps.

Palmetto Bay is a suburban incorporated village in Miami-Dade County, Florida, United States. This village contains Cutler and East Perrine, two census-designated locations established in the 2000 census. Palmetto Bay is largely comprised of trees that provide shade, aesthetic, and environmental benefits throughout the village. According to the Tree Management Plan, in 2014, there were nearly 200 different tree species and a total of 25,566 trees in the village’s Right-of-Way, public facilities, and parks. Businesses and similar establishments aren’t that prominent in Palmetto Bay, as it is mostly made up of residential areas.

Residential area in Palmetto Bay. Photo by Christina Fernandez/ CC BY 4.0

History

Nature at Deering Estate. Photo by Christina Fernandez/ CC BY 4.0

Many cultures have inhabited the land that we now know of as Palmetto Bay in the past for over 10,000 years. These cultures include Paleo-Indians, Tequestas, Seminoles, Afro-Bahamians, and Anglo-Americans. Early settlers created a camp in what is now known as the Deering Estate property 10,000 years ago. In 1985, archaeologists discovered human skeletal and charred animal remains from that early time period at the Old Cutler Fossil Site, one of the most important archaeological excavations in the Eastern United States. This was a significant discovery because prior to the archaeological findings at the site, it was widely believed that human habitation in Florida dated back only 4,000 years ago.

During the Second Seminole War in 1838, Dr. Perrine was granted land by the government that included an area that corresponds to what is now Palmetto Bay, Pinecrest, and the Falls. Dr. Perrine was allowed to keep this land as long as he assigned a settler to each section who would cultivate tropical plants and vegetables, contributing to the development of agriculture in the area. Dr. Perrine was shortly killed afterwards during an Indian attack in 1840 and was not able to witness the land’s development, but his family was able to get the grant transferred to the shores of Biscayne Bay, which resulted in the distribution of exotic trees and plants in the area, furthering the growth of the land.

Other prominent historical figures at the time also shaped the direction and course of history regarding the land that is now Palmetto Bay. Francis and John H. Earhart were two settlers who created a farming community which came to be known as Franjo, and the road that led to the community still exists to this day and is known by many as Franjo Road. Thomas J. Peters was another important settler who operated a tomato farm and became the largest commercial operation in the area for several years. Dr. William Cutler arrived in 1883 and began to develop the land he acquired through the cultivation of crops from vegetable farms and fruit groves. Charles Deering, Chairman of the International Harvester Company, bought a large portion of the land in Cutler to build his luxurious estate that became a notable landmark in Palmetto Bay (“History of Palmetto Bay: Palmetto Bay, FL.”).

In 1992, Hurricane Andrew left behind severe damage and devastation along its path. During those dark times, many had to endure days without power and water while the county attended to other areas. This unfortunate situation motivated the Alliance of Palmetto South Homeowners Association to petition the county to incorporate the area into its own city. In May 20002, the Village of Palmetto Bay becomes incorporated, and the Palmetto Bay Municipal Advisory Committee was established and determined to fulfill its goals of improving the area overall in terms of safety, regulations, services, and things of that nature (“How We Became a Village: Palmetto Bay, FL.”).

Demographics

According to The United States Census Bureau:

As of 2018, It is estimated that Palmetto Bay has 24,589 inhabitants. The population is made up of 85.1% White residents, 4.9% Black or African American residents, 5.1% Asian residents, and 0.2% Native Hawaiian residents. The remaining 2.7% are residents who are of two or more races. Additionally, 45.6% of the population are of Hispanic or Latino origin, while 42.3% are White without Hispanic or Latino origin. In terms of sex, the population is made up of 52% Females and 48% Males. In regard to the ages of the residents of Palmetto Bay, 6.3% of residents are under five (5) years old, 25.7% of residents are under 18 years old, and 14.7% of residents are 65 years old and over. The remaining 53.3% of residents are between the ages of 18 and 65 years. The median age in Palmetto Bay is 41.1 years of age. The median income of this village is $115,709. The poverty rate stands at 5.9%.

Interview with Dario Fernandez ( a Palmetto Bay resident)

Photo by Rebecca Fernandez

Dario Fernandez was born on January 19, 1962 in Cartagena, Colombia. He received a scholarship to continue his studies in the United States and moved to Kendall when he was 18 years old. After many years of living in Kendall, he moved to Palmetto Bay with his family in 2004 and has lived there for 16 years now. Dario currently works remotely as a computer software developer for a therapist company.

What was the reason you moved to Palmetto Bay?

Dario: I moved here because of the A-level public schools that are nearby so that my daughters could have access to a better education.

What do you like most about living in Palmetto Bay?

The peacefulness of the neighborhood. It’s a very green area with not a lot of street noise and houses don’t sit right next to each other, so there’s a lot of privacy. My family and I also enjoy going to Coral Reef Park, which is nearby.

What do you like least about living in Palmetto Bay?

The area is a bit pricey and because our home sits in a flood zone, there’s always a chance that we have to evacuate. Also, many houses are old and have to get renovations, which can be expensive.

Do you see yourself moving out of Palmetto Bay in the future, and why?

Even though I would like to move to a less expensive area, my wife is really happy here, so we don’t plan on moving any time soon.

Landmarks

The Deering Estate is a historic site that features the remarkable estate of Charles Deering, native cultural records, nature, and wildlife. The Estate offers tours of the significant historic houses- the Richmond Cottage and the Stone House. The Richmond Cottage was a pioneer home built by Samuel H. Richmond for his family and was then renovated by Deering as a winter home. The Stone House featured The Prohibition Era Wine Cellar and displayed Deering’s precious art collection that included items such as paintings, books, and antique furnishings. The Tequesta Burial Mound is located in Deering Estate and visitors have the opportunity to walk an ancient Tequesta trail. The Tequesta were early Native American people who were believed to have a role in developing tree islands, utilizing marine resources, and teaching settlers how to harvest certain plants. The Deering Estate foundation focuses on protecting and preserving wildlife, plants, and ecosystems through practices such as Rare Species Recovery and Natural Areas Management. Many people visit to hike through the area and observe the beauty it holds.

“Thalatta Estate” by SEWinds is licensed under CC BY-ND 2.0 

Thalatta Estate is a vintage residence that was built and designed by the Connett family and has a similar Mediterranean style to that of the Deering Estate. The lovely architectural features that pertain to this estate include details such as stucco walls, round-arched openings, and wood ceiling beans. This estate offers a magnificent view of the waters of Biscayne Bay and is open to reservations for weddings, galas, and similar events. It is also home to different wildlife that sit in nearby mangroves including herons, pelicans, and marine iguanas. I’ve had the opportunity to attend a school art show at this estate, and it felt magical to see it lit up in the nighttime with all the wonderful amenities it had to offer.

The Chinese Bridge. Photo by Christina Fernandez/ CC BY 4.0

The Chinese Bridge Road was constructed in 1918 by Charles Deering and his reason in doing so was to cross Cutler Creek on the way to his retirement home. It is believed that Deering chose the Chinese theme when designing this bridge to remind him of his past travels in Asia as a U.S naval officer. This bridge is situated on a pedestrian street within the natural areas of Deering’s property. People come across this charming bridge often while bike riding or jogging in the area.

Green

Sunset at Coral Reef Park. Photo by Christina Fernandez/ CC BY 4.0

Coral Reef Park is a scenic public park that spans over more than 50 acres. It is common to see parents taking their children to play in the playground, older adults enjoying an afternoon stroll, and teenagers competing on the sandy volleyball courts. Bike riding, soccer games, and tennis matches are also popular activities that the park’s regulars take advantage of. The abundance of trees that cover this park makes it an excellent location to have a pleasant picnic under the shade.

Photo by Jessi Cramer

Deering point is a picturesque area with direct access to a body of water. Kayaking, canoeing, and paddle boarding are some fun outdoor water activities that many people enjoy at this location, especially since Deering Point offers free public access to Biscayne Bay. It is also common to see families or friends fishing for hours on end. There are a couple of benches and rocks that one can sit on to enjoy the breathtaking views of nature and receive that spectacular sea breeze.

Palmetto Bay Park temporarily closed due to COVID-19/ Photo by Christina Fernandez/ CC BY 4.0

Palmetto Bay Park is an enchanting public park that provides its visitors with recreation and relaxation. Spanning over 25 acres, this park offers a variety of amenities such as basketball courts, softball fields, and a skate park. Many people utilize this park to do cardio in the form of jogging or biking on the walking path. This is an exceptional location for families to bring their children to play on the playground or to host their child’s birthday celebration at one of the park’s gazebos. This park offers its visitors plenty of green space, shade, and scenery.

Transportation

Photo by Christina Fernandez/ CC BY 4.0

According to Data USA, the majority of residents of Palmetto Bay use cars as their primary mean of transportation, and the average car ownership is two per household; therefore, the inability to commute is not a prevalent issue within the community.

While most people utilize their cars to commute, the village of Palmetto Bay offers its residents two different transportation options. The I-Bus shuttles and FreeBee electric vans provide individuals with a means of transportation to and from Dadeland South Metrorail Station. These transportation services are easily accessible through mobile apps that residents can download to track shuttles and check on arrival times. The best part of these resources is that they are free to residents of Palmetto Bay. These options are affordable and a convenient way to get around locally for those who don’t have easy access to a car or those who aren’t equipped to drive, such as people with disabilities.

It is also common to see families on golf carts and people of all ages biking around the area, especially since there are several locations in Palmetto Bay with close proximity to each other that people can arrive easily to without the use of a car.

Food

The Fritanga in Palmetto Bay is a Nicaraguan restaurant that specializes in home-style food. The dishes they offer are very affordable and a plate of food can easily feed two people. Gallo pinto (rice and beans), carne asada (grilled meat), platano frito (fried plantains), and queso frito (fried cheese) are just some of the traditional Nicaraguan food options they offer. The layout of the restaurant is similar to that of a cafeteria, and there are rows of booths to sit at, although they usually remain empty because customers tend to pick up their food and go. This restaurant is a perfect, Hispanic fast-food option for those who are craving ready-to-go Nicaraguan food!

The Butcher Shop & Deli is a local food spot that serves a variety of Cuban food options. Pan con lechon, media noche, and croqueta preparada are some of the popular Cuban sandwiches they specialize in. People often stop by for their daily fix of caffeine in the form of a café con leche, a cortadito, or a colada. This cafeteria-styled restaurant is a hidden gem because it isn’t displayed boldly on the street, making it easy to miss as you drive by. It serves affordable and delicious Cuban food that is perfect for days when one wants a quick bite or take-away.

Ayesha Fine Dining is a restaurant that offers authentic Indian food. Chicken tikka masala, garlic naan (garlic flatbread), and shrimp apna curry are some of the customer favorites that this location offers. This restaurant is more on the pricey side, but definitely worth it. The restaurant is decorated with Indian symbols and makes for a genuine dining experience. As you walk in, you are greeted with the pleasant smell of spices and the atmosphere is very welcoming. This location is an excellent restaurant to feast at with family or friends.

Due to the COVID-19 policies set in place to help prevent contamination, I wasn’t able to sit and enjoy a meal inside of any of these restaurants during this time period. Fortunately, I was able to order and pick up my food to take out and revel in these delicious meals in the safety of my own home. While all of these restaurants differed in the cuisine they offered, they all provided an ethnic, flavorful, and satisfying eating experience.

Businesses

Palmetto Bay Farmers Market is an outdoor market where vendors display their one-of-a-kind goods and services every Sunday at Coral Reef Park. From fresh acai bowls to artisan bags, the farmers market has a little something for everyone. Exotic fruits, hand-crafted jewelry, and handmade body butters are just a couple of the high-quality products that vendors sell. Many walk to the farmers market from the church nearby after mass on Sundays to enjoy a tasty meal from one of the food trucks. Visiting the farmers market is a great way to support small businesses while enjoying a nice Sunday afternoon out at the park.

Modern Salon & Spa is a local Cuban owned salon that provides excellent beauty services to its clientele. The majority of their employees have immigrated from Cuba and often connect with their clients about the culture. Becoming a loyal customer is likely due to the personal connections customers often make with their hairdresser or nail technician to the point that they treat you like family. They specialize in hair and nails and treat customers with the utmost professionalism and care.

Asian Best Market is a small shop that offers authentic oriental foods and herbs. They offer a variety of food products that pertain to countries such as China, Japan, and Vietnam. This market offers unique ethnic products that would never be found at a big grocery chain such as Publix. They offer a wide range of teas, spices, and snacks that correspond to the Asian culture. It is important for those in the area who are Asian to have access to a market where they are able to continue their culinary traditions with ease.

These businesses have unfortunately been negatively impacted by the spread of COVID-19 and have either reduced their store hours or shut down temporarily.

Summary

Photo by Rebecca Fernandez

 Palmetto Bay, a suburban neighborhood known for its family-friendly environment, is a village that combined the areas of Cutler and East Perrine into one. It is known for its well renowned public and private schools from Coral Reef Elementary to Westminster Christian School. Palmetto Bay is also known as the “Village of Parks” due to its extensive public park availability such as Coral Reef Park, Palmetto Bay Park, and Perrine Wayside Park. These parks are where the village hosts various events such as movie nights, farmers markets, and 4th of July firework shows. Many recreational activities exist in this area such as visiting the historical Deering Estate, eating at a wide selection of restaurants, and biking on designated trails. Palmetto Bay is an area that consists of affordable and expensive homes, so it is a nice balance for its residents who have distinct budgets.

While Palmetto Bay is a safe location in terms of crime, it can be considered risky whenever hurricane season approaches. In August 1992, homes and places of business received extreme repercussions from Hurricane Andrew. Since Palmetto Bay is close to the ocean, there exists the possibility that the village can experience damage due to natural disasters and has to rebuild. Although Palmetto Bay continues to be a dicey area for hurricane season, the houses are starting to be built with concrete rather than wood, making it safer for its inhabitants. Palmetto Bay is not of much a tourist attraction, but rather a place for many home-owning families to make memories with their children. The suburban “Village of Parks” is a safe location where residents can enjoy raising their families and living a comfortable lifestyle.

Works Cited

“Chinese Bridge Historical Marker.” Historical Marker, 16 June 2016, http://www.hmdb.org/m.asp?m=79320.

“Deering Estate History: Historic Miami Mansion & Gardens.” Deering Estate, 26 Mar. 2020, deeringestate.org/history/.

“Historic Structures.” Deering Estate, 25 Feb. 2020, deeringestate.org/history/historic-structures/.

“History.” History | Thalatta Estate, http://www.thalattaestate.com/history.

“Palmetto Bay, FL.” Data USA, datausa.io/profile/geo/palmetto-bay-fl/.

“History of Palmetto Bay: Palmetto Bay, FL.” Village of Palmetto Bay Florida, http://www.palmettobay-fl.gov/681/History-of-Palmetto-Bay.

“How We Became a Village: Palmetto Bay, FL.” Village of Palmetto Bay Florida, http://www.palmettobay-fl.gov/862/How-We-Became-a-Village.

“Through the Years: Palmetto Bay, FL.” Village of Palmetto Bay Florida, http://www.palmettobay-fl.gov/1013/Through-The-Years.

“Tree Management Plan.” Tree Management Plan, May 2016. https://www.palmettobay-fl.gov/DocumentCenter/View/1909/Resolution-2016-34-PDF.

“U.S. Census Bureau QuickFacts: Palmetto Bay Village, Florida.” Census Bureau QuickFacts, http://www.census.gov/quickfacts/palmettobayvillageflorida.

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