Italia Spring 2020 Ineffable Miami: Kendall by Ana Ruas

Photo by Ana Ruas (CC by 4.0)

Biography

Ana Ruas is a sophomore at Florida International University and its Honors College, currently majoring in both Biological Sciences and English and minoring in Chemistry. Her interests are a dichotomy of sorts, where on one hand she is interested about ovarian cancer research and the advancement of genetic editing via CRISPR, but Ana is also passionate about literature and traveling. Ana will be graduating in Spring 2022 and is currently enrolled in the Italy Study Abroad course with Professor JW Bailly; below is her Ineffable Miami Project.

Geography

Map of the Kendall, Florida Area
Map Retrieved from Google Maps 2020

Kendall is an unincorporated community in Miami-Dade County, Florida in the United States, located 10 miles southwest of Downtown Miami. This residential suburb is bordered by the Florida Turnpike and US-1 to the West and East, as well as by SW 72nd Street to the North and SW 152nd Street to the South. Should a survey be conducted of Kendall’s residents, each participant would define the suburb’s boundaries differently due to the lack of clear-cut borders; due to this variability, this is why the aforementioned boundaries will be used to define the area that Kendall encompasses (“Kendall, Florida”).

Unlike other communities in Miami, Kendall is not known for the nightlife / party scene nor cultural diversity; this is mainly a residential community consisting of middle- to upper-middle class families. Driving among its roads, one would observe rows of houses and gated communities across the landscape – not a skyscraper in sight. Local and national chain businesses would also be seen sprinkled across the area, catering to the needs of Kendall’s residents. And despite its quiet and tranquil environment, Kendall is not far from the lively parts of Miami, such as Pinecrest and Downtown Miami, and is home to two profitable commercial centers: Dadeland and the Falls.

History

Family of Seminole Indians in their Village in Kendall, Florida
John Kunkel Small / Public Domain

Seminole Indians were the first to call modern-day Kendall “home” after they relocated from Georgia in the mid 1700s, where they abandoned their status as Creek Indians and forged a new identity for themselves in South Florida. However, like many other Native American groups, the majority of the Seminoles were forced to leave and migrate north between the 1830s and 1840s in accordance to the Indian Removal Act, which aimed to allow for the settlement and expansion of white communities across the United States (“Second Seminole War”). Despite this grievous act against the indigenous community, historical records revealed that 192 Seminole Indians managed to remain in Dade County, living between two villages in 1900; one village was near the current location of Baptist Hospital and the other was located at the intersection between modern-day SW 107th Avenue and SW 80th Street (Kenward 2009).

Several years after the forced removal of the Seminole Indians, the Florida Land and Mortgage Company, which owned and regulated much of the available land in the 1800s, appointed Henry John Broughton Kendall as the trustee in charge of managing the company’s property in 1884. With Kendall’s prominent presence in the community for the remainder of his career, the region of land he overlooked was eventually named after him, giving rise to what we know today as “Kendall.” Furthermore, Henry Kendall was not the only Henry to greatly impact this community; Henry Flagler built railroad tracks and its station in the Kendall area in 1903, which made the region accessible to outsiders and expediated the region’s economic development and infrastructure. Unfortunately, this station no longer exists, though it is believed to have been located on the Metrorail line near US-1 and the Palmetto Expressway (Kenward 2009).

Destruction of Dadeland Mobile Home Park After Impact from Hurricane Andrew
NOAA Photo Library / Public Domain

Kendall is one of the most tranquil suburbs of Miami, though it has had its fair share of turmoil and chaos across the years. Hurricane Andrew’s impact on the Florida Atlantic coast in 1992 is a trauma that continues to haunt the residents of this community, where many still remember the terror of feeling the foundations of their homes shaking and the utter destruction this storm left in its wake (Morgan 2017). Later hurricanes, such as Hurricane Katrina and Hurricane Irma, induced similar fears before and upon impact, where the shelves at groceries would clear out in the blink of an eye as many stockpiled the necessary supplies to survive the storms, showing just how deep these scars run in the community.

Kendall Residents Social Distancing at a Local Market
Photo by Norma Gonzalez (CC by 4.0)

The current COVID-19 global pandemic is the latest disturbance to normal life that Kendall residents have been experiencing, where many avoid leaving their homes in fear of contracting and spreading this deadly virus. Public schools have closed and transitioned to remote learning for an unprecedented amount of time, even for closures during hurricane season (Gonzalez-Diego 2020). Many residents have been social distancing and self-isolating for weeks, wearing masks and gloves upon mandatory orders of their local municipalities and state government. Supplies at grocery stores continuously run out, leaving the shelves bare until more products arrive. COVID-19 has not only greatly impacted life in Kendall, but across the world, and the repercussion of this pandemic will be felt for many years to come.

Demographics

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, Kendall has a population of 75,371 residents with approximately 52% identifying as female and 48% as male. About 58.6% of this community are between 18 and 64 years old, while 4.1% are under 5 years of age, 18.8% are under 18 years old and 18.5% are 65 years of age or older; therefore, the majority of the population are adults. Furthermore, the Kendall population is predominantly white with 88.2% of individuals categorizing themselves under this racial identity. Only 3.1% of Kendall residents are Black / African American and 3.9% are Asian; there are no American Indians / Alaska Natives or Native Hawaiians / Other Pacific Islanders in the community. As previously mentioned, Kendall primarily consists of middle-class families, as seen with the median household income of $72,817 and the per capita income of $38,821 in households of this suburb (“U.S. Census Bureau QuickFacts: Kendall CDP, Florida”).

Biography of Norma Gonzalez (A Kendall Resident):

Norma Gonzalez at a Key Largo Restaurant
Photo by Ana Ruas (CC by 4.0)

Norma Gonzalez was born in Camagüey, Cuba on April 9th, 1973. She immigrated to the United States with her husband in 1999 while six months pregnant (with me!), searching for a better life for her growing family. Norma previously worked as a graphic designer assisting an architect, though she is now a stay-at-home mom that is passionate about orchids and making jewelry.

Interview with Norma Gonzalez:

Ana: Why did you decide to move to Kendall?

Norma: Everything in this neighborhood is nearby, which is really convenient, and there are good schools in the area.

Ana: What is your favorite thing to do or place to visit in the neighborhood?

Norma: Ross, Marshalls and T.J. Maxx. I like shopping and the nearby mall makes that easy.

Ana: Is there anything you would like to change about Kendall? If yes, what would you change and why?

Norma: Traffic is normally bumper to bumper, but COVID-19 has been taking care of that lately.

Landmarks

Love Lock Bridge at the Palms at Town & Country

The Love Lock Bridge at the Palms at Town & Country
Image Retrieved from Google Maps 2020

The Love Lock Bridge was built in 1985 as part of the previous enclosed mall, though when it was demolished and the Palms at Town & Country was built, the bridge was renovated to match the outdoor Mediterranean-style aesthetic. For years local couples would become engaged on the bridge, though it was not until 2013 when Joy Medlock, Vice President and General Manager of the mall, decided to implement the Love Lock tradition after visiting the Pont des Arts bridge in Paris, France. Management began spreading the word throughout the community via social media and restaurant promotions, and soon local couples and families were placing their own locks on the bridge (Portilla 2015).

The Love Lock bridge is located over the man-made lake at the center of the Palms and held up to 200 locks back in 2015 (Portilla 2015), though I am sure that many more have been placed since then. Providing a space for couples to publicly display their love, as many other places around the world have with their own Love Lock Bridges, is a nice tradition to implement for the current and future residents of Kendall and makes us part of the global community.

Dadeland Mall

Front Entrance of Dadeland Mall
Image Retrieved from Google Maps 2020

Dadeland Mall is one of the largest and most popular commercial centers in Miami, attracting thousands of tourists every year into its stores. Located between the Palmetto Expressway and US-1 on SW 88th Street, the 535,000 ft2 complex houses anchor stores such as Macy’s and Apple, as well as popular restaurants and local boutiques (“Dadeland Mall”). Though tourists are mainly attracted to the popular chain stores that Dadeland offers, the mall does have unique local stores and eateries that provide that Miami flair that can be found nowhere else.

The Dice House

The Dice House in Continental Park
Image Retrieved from Google Maps 2020

The Dice House is the oldest home structure in the Kendall community, where it was built in 1920 by David Brantly Dice with a general drug store next to the property. The Dice House itself operated as a pre-school and day care center for Kendall residents for many years until major damages from use were sustained, at which point the House was forced to cease operations. Bernardo Junco, the most recent owner of the Dice House, along with the Miami-Dade County Historic Preservation Board believed that the historic site would have to be demolished due to the damages, though collaboration between these groups and Commissioner Katy Sorenson, the Miami-Dade Parks and Recreation Departments and the Dade Heritage Trust prevented that from happening. The Dice House was relocated three blocks to Continental Park for restoration and later opened as an after-school center open to the public (“The Dice House”). Preserving this historic home allows Kendall residents to glimpse into past life in the community, when the natural landscape was more plentiful and urbanization was not completely underway.

Green

Due to the residential nature of Kendall, there are several parks and green spaces that the residents of the community can enjoy, the three most prominent being Kendall Indian Hammocks Park, Continental Park and Killian Palms Country Club.

Kendall Indian Hammocks Park

SW 107th Avenue Entrance of Kendall Indian Hammocks Park
Image Retrieved from Google Maps 2020

Kendall Indian Hammocks Park is located right off SW 107th Avenue, between SW 72nd Street and SW 88th Street, and is one of the largest parks in the suburb. Trails wrap around and through the entire park, where residents frequently walk or bike throughout the day. Plazas and benches are situated throughout the area, perfect for weekend picnics or family barbecues. Two playground areas, baseball / softball fields and a skate park are other amenities provided by Kendall Indian Hammocks Park (“Kendall Indian Hammocks Park”). TERRA Environmental Research Institute, a top-tier STEM magnet high school, is also found within the park. With all of these features, Kendall Indian Hammocks Park provides many resources for locals, from an area to exercise to facilitating family gatherings to housing education for the community’s youth; overall this makes the park an active place in the Kendall suburb.

Continental Park

SW 82nd Avenue Entrance of Continental Park
Image Retrieved from Google Maps 2020

Continental Park is also another popular park in the Kendall area, which provides tennis and basketball courts for residents. Exercise programs for the elderly and young children are also offered, though only the programs for senior citizens are covered by tax dollars. Either way, these services are great for engaging the community and bringing people together in one central space (“Continental Park”).

Killian Palms Country Club

The Killian Palms Country Club serves as a private reception hall to host special events in the community, such as quinceañeras and weddings. Outside of the main building is a lush garden and surrounding trees, providing the perfect atmosphere for an elegant and beautiful party (Grand Salon Reception Hall).

Transportation

The Florida Turnpike
Ebyabe / CC BY-SA (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)

According to Data USA, 83.1% of Kendall residents commute to work via driving their own vehicle(s), with only 4.43% of the population utilizing public transportation and 1.23% walking; since most families in the Kendall area are middle- to upper-middle class, they can afford having at least one car in their household, therefore reducing the need for public transportation to move around the community. Data USA provides this by showing that more than half of the households own between one to two cars, where 23.1% own one car and 47.4% own two. Main highways and roads to note that many Kendall residents utilize are the Florida Turnpike, the Palmetto Expressway, US-1, SW 72nd Street, SW 107th Avenue, SW 88th Street, SW 87th Avenue and SW 117th Avenue (“Kendall, FL”).

Northbound Busway near Dadeland Mall
B137 / CC0

Even though few individuals use the public transportation that Kendall offers, there are several different options available in the neighborhood. For instance, two Metrorail stations can be found near Dadeland Mall: one that is northbound and another that is southbound. However, since these stations are located at the northeastern corner of the suburb, individuals that live farther away from Dadeland would not benefit from this service and this option would be impractical. On the other hand, public buses and their stops are more evenly distributed throughout the community, where the Route 88 and Route 288 buses primarily serve the Kendall area (“Metrobus Routes and Schedules”). This is a more feasible option for folks who are unable to purchase their own car and need reliable transportation every day to commute to work.

Food

Norman Brothers Produce

Front Entrance of Norman Brothers Produce
Image Retrieved from Google Maps 2020

Norman Brothers Produce is a local grocery store that has been serving Kendall’s residents for over 40 years. The family-owned business provides the community with fresh produce as well as varieties of meat from the deli, delicious soups and sandwiches from the cafeteria and sweet deserts from the bakery that will have you wanting every last bite. Norman Brothers Produce also gives back to the community that has stuck with them for so long; over the years the store has raised over $100,000 through their Wine Tasting event to donate to charities such as the Miami Project to Cure Paralysis, Susan G. Komen for the Cure, The American Cancer Association and Operation Smile (“Charitable Contributions”).

Moonlite Diner

Sideview of Moonlite Diner
Image Retrieved from Google Maps 2020

The Moonlite Diner is located less than a block away from the Kendall Regal Cinema, attracting families, couples and groups of friends with the prospect of continuing their night out by eating classic diner food: burgers, fries and milkshakes. The Moonlite Diner also serves breakfast twenty-four hours a day, which is a great option for people who like eating breakfast for dinner, especially sometimes late-night breakfast food is the mood. Inside the diner is covered with memorabilia from the 1970s and 1980s, making patrons feel like they have gone back in time into a classic rom-com movie. Expert customer service has been given every time I have gone to the Moonlite Diner and is a place I highly recommend anyone to go to if they are looking for good food and a place to spend time with family and friends.

Nunzio’s Ristorante

Front Entrance of Nunzio’s Ristorante
Image Retrieved from Google Maps 2020

Nunzio’s Ristorante is an Italian family-run establishment that serves authentic cuisine and treats its patrons like one of their own. Family photos and items are seen throughout the restaurant, giving customers the sense that they are eating with longtime friends rather than strangers. Locals rave and swear by how good Nunzio’s food is; the restaurant has accumulated such an amazing reputation that some people have been frequenting the establishment for over 20 years. Nunzio’s Ristorante is a hidden gem that anyone in the area should definitely check out, though make sure they are open before you go, since the family closes down every summer to go back to Italy for the season.

Businesses

Super Wheels Miami

Skaters at Super Wheels Miami
Photo by Norma Gonzalez (CC by 4.0)

Super Wheels Miami is a roller-skating rink that has been established in the community since 2001 after Thunder Wheels (the previous skating rink) closed after eleven months of business. For nearly twenty years Super Wheels has provided skating fun for Kendall’s youth, providing a retro aesthetic, popular music and vast arcade that attracts kids of nearly all ages. Super Wheels has found success in this industry from their clear popularity in the neighborhood, though they have also begun hosting STEM field trips for local elementary and middle schools, highlighting the importance of education by teaching students different science concepts and how they apply to everyday experiences, such as roller skating (“About”).

Ann Jewel

An Ann Jewel Bracelet Collection
Photo by Norma Gonzalez (CC by 4.0)

Ann Jewel is a local jewelry company that creates bracelets and necklaces with semi-precious stones. Since their start in 2011, they have gathered a vast audience and loyal clientele through Facebook and Instagram: their primary means of conducting business. Ann Jewel has come out with nearly one hundred collections over the past ten years, showing how social media can connect businesses with potential clients without the need for a storefront. Norma Gonzalez, the owner of Ann Jewel, is extremely pleased with this success in the jewelry industry and has started a new venture called Tay Creation, where she aims create cute and memorable T-Shirt designs.

Miami Orthodontist Group

Entrance to the Miami Orthodontist Group Office
Image Retrieved from Google Maps 2020

The Miami Orthodontist Group expanded from Doral to Kendall between 2015 and 2016, and Dr. Alquizar and his team have been fixing the smiles of children and teens since then. Not only do they provide orthodontic care and related services, they also engage with the community through events to meet new patients and social media, explaining different tips and tricks they have for maintaining oral hygiene, as well as announcing giveaways of items (e.g. gift cards) or some of their orthodontic services (“About Us”).

Note: Due to the COVID-19 global pandemic, many local businesses have either reduced their store hours or have temporarily closed their doors during this time. Supporting these entrepreneurs has always been important, but it is even more so now than ever since they do not have the financial resources that many chain corporations do to stay afloat. Whenever possible, please support local businesses; they will appreciate the help.

Summary

Anyone thinking of Miami tends to have the same recurring images: the beaches, the nightlife and parties, the diversity of people and the bright colors and patterns on anything from the buildings to the clothes. While some parts of Miami fit into this stereotype, Kendall is definitely not one of them. To start off Kendall is a residential suburb, so many who live there want peace and quiet to raise their families; the wild nightlife and loud music does not mix well with that. Kendall has also been seriously lacking racial diversity since the late 1880s, where the community continues to be predominantly white. I believe this lack of diversity directly correlates with the lack of a rich and profound history in Kendall, and it is possible that introducing new groups of people into the community can be the beginning of a new chapter in this part of Miami.

Even though Kendall is one of the few tranquil parts of Miami, it does provide some fun and exciting things to do, such as going shopping at Dadeland Mall, having a romantic picnic at Kendall Indian Hammocks Park and having a blast roller skating with friends at Super Wheels Miami; basically you will not experience any FOMO (fear of missing out) while you are there. Overall, the Kendall suburb is a homey and quaint part of Miami that few tourists get to see due to its lack of “attractions,” though the neighborhood definitely is enough for many Miamians to call this part of the city home.

Works Cited

“About.” Super Wheels Miami, https://superwheelsmiami.com/about/.

“About Us.” Miami Orthodontist Group, https://www.miamiorthodontistgroup.com/about-us/.

“Charitable Contributions.” Norman Brothers Produce, https://normanbrothers.com/charitable-contributions/.

“Continental Park.” Miami-Dade County, http://www.miamidade.gov/parks/continental.asp.

“Dadeland Mall.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 18 Apr. 2020, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dadeland_Mall.

Gonzalez-Diego, Daisy. “M-DCPS Announces Districtwide School Closures Effective Monday, March 16th, 2020.” Office of Communications Miami-Dade County Public Schools, 2020, http://news.dadeschools.net/cmnc/new/29440.

“Grand Salon Reception Hall.” Grand Salon Reception Hall, https://www.grandsalonreceptionhall.com/.

“Kendall, FL.” Data USA, https://datausa.io/profile/geo/kendall-fl#category_transportation.

“Kendall, Florida.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 18 Apr. 2020, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kendall,_Florida#History.

“Kendall Indian Hammocks Park.” Miami-Dade County, http://www.miamidade.gov/parks/kendall-indian-hammocks.asp.

Kenward, Scott F. “Father & Mother: The Birth of Kendall – Part 2.” Village of Pinecrest, 2009, https://www.pinecrest-fl.gov/home/showdocument?id=42.

Kenward, Scott F. “In the Beginning: The Birth of Kendall – Part 1.” Village of Pinecrest, 2009, https://www.pinecrest-fl.gov/home/showdocument?id=42.

“Metrobus Routes & Schedules.” Miami-Dade County, https://www.miamidade.gov/transportation-publicworks/routes.asp.

Morgan, Curtis. “Remembering the Fury of Hurricane Andrew in South Florida.” Miami Herald, 2017, https://www.miamiherald.com/news/special-reports/hurricane-andrew/article1942070.html.

Portilla, Christian “Couples, Families Lock Their Love on Bridge at Kendall Mall.” Miami Herald, 2015, https://www.miamiherald.com/news/local/community/miami-dade/kendall/article17887988.html.

“Second Seminole War.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 18 Apr. 2020, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Second_Seminole_War.

“The Dice House.” Historical Marker Project, https://historicalmarkerproject.com/markers/HM1G5W_the-dice-house_Kendall-FL.html.

“U.S. Census Bureau QuickFacts: Kendall CDP, Florida.” United States Census Bureau, https://www.census.gov/quickfacts/fact/table/kendallcdpflorida/POP060210.

Italia Spring 2020 As Texts: Ana Ruas

Photo by Ana Ruas (CC by 4.0)

Ana Ruas is a sophomore at Florida International University and its Honors College, currently majoring in both Biological Sciences and English and minoring in Chemistry. Her interests are a dichotomy of sorts, where on one hand she is interested about ovarian cancer research and the advancement of genetic editing via CRISPR, but Ana is also passionate about literature and traveling. Ana will be graduating in Spring 2022 and is currently enrolled in the Italy Study Abroad course with Professor JW Bailly; below are her Italia as Texts.

Vizcaya as Text

Sculpture of Bacchus at the entrance of Vizcaya Museum and Gardens
Photo by Ana Ruas (CC by 4.0)
“Vizcaya: Unexpected in Miami” by Ana Ruas of FIU at Vizcaya Museum and Gardens

Vizcaya is a place that outsiders would say does not make sense in Miami, or at least is not expected. Think about it, the Magic City is the place for club parties and days tanning on the beach along the Atlantic. Vizcaya, with its Greek and Roman-inspired art, Mediterranean-style architecture and peaceful gardens, should clash with the modern and hip Caribbean theme of the city. But upon walking into the villa and seeing the sculpture that greets whomever comes inside, that is as Miami as it gets in one piece of art. Bacchus (or Dionysus) is a god that loves deeply, but not for another person. He is the embodiment of the pleasures of the flesh, taking joy in food, drink, and the company of those around him; most people come to Miami for those very reasons. But even though Bacchus is associated with this debauchery, I feel he represents a vibrance and personality that extends past physical content and goes into something more spiritual: a joy of being oneself. It reminds me of immigrants who flee their countries to avoid persecution, to just be themselves. Many Cubans did just that, coming to Miami since the late 1950s to avoid Castro’s regime, and with them they brought a lively and vibrant culture that is as intertwined with Miami’s identity as its beaches and club scene are. Miami may not be known for having stood a thousand years in history, but it is definitely known for its bright and energetic culture, and both Bacchus and Vizcaya are perfect examples of just that.

MOAD as Text

Stained-Glass Window Depicting Jesus Christ Turning Water into Water located inside the Gesù Church
Photo by Ana Ruas (CC by 4.0)
“Gesù Church: Beauty and Catholicism” by Ana Ruas of FIU at the Museum of Art and Design

Stepping into the Gesù Church truly felt like going back in time. Looking at the gilded alter and columns throughout the front and the detailed, lifelike quality of the structures, I felt I had stepped into a church reminiscent of the Baroque style in Europe. Intricacies of the stained-glass windows augmented this effect, making it feel as if I were walking through Jesus’ life in real time, as if I had been present throughout all these important events in Catholicism. I can imagine that the beauty and tranquil nature of the Gesù Church is what attracts its congregation members to frequent this space, and I will admit that I felt at peace and calm during my time in the church, which is something I have not felt in such a place of worship for many years.

Despite its splendor, what most impacted me about the Gesù Church was its history with the city of Miami, specifically how it followed its development since the arrival of Europeans in the late 1500s. As Miami grew into the international hotspot it is today, the Gesù Church has served at the forefront of promoting Catholic teachings and beliefs in the community, given that it was the city’s first Roman Catholic church. Not only has the Gesù held Mass for parishioners for centuries, but it has also played a role in converting local Tequesta Indians to Catholicism during Spain’s occupation of the region. I have passed by the Gesù many times throughout my life and I never would have thought that a seemingly quiet church would have such a rich history. I thought I had known nearly every facet of Miami, though learning about the Gesù Church, its relationship with both the city’s growth and history, has showed me that Miami is always going to have an ace up its sleeve, presenting to me some new feature I had never known before.

Deering Estate as Text

View of Boat Basin from Deering Estate
Elisa.Rolle / CC BY-SA (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)
“Escaping Miami: A Fresh Breath of Air” by Ana Ruas of FIU at the Deering Estate

Late January of 2020, before the start of the COVID-19 global pandemic, I had the chance to visit the Deering Estate to hear Richard Blanco read a selection of his poems to an audience. Up until that point I had never been to a poetry reading before, nor had I ever been to the Estate, so I was unsure of what to expect from either.

Upon arrival, tall stone columns and wide wooden gates welcomed me to the historic property, with billowing trees lining my path to the buildings and ocean beyond. The Mediterranean Revival architecture of the mansion was grand and elegant, and several artists were painting and sketching the beautiful buildings or the flora and fauna around them. Such beauty and peace was costly in a moral sense; like most of Miami, the Deering Estate has a dark past of having subjected African-American and Afro-Bahamian labor to poor working conditions during the construction of the property in the 1920s. Though nothing can rectify those wrongs, at least the Estate continues the philanthropic work that Charles Deering started in supporting artists, though now extends those resources to encourage diversity and freedom of expression in the artistic world for both the Miami community and the world to experience and enjoy, like the sponsored Richard Blanco poetry reading.

Despite the beauty of the Stone House and the surrounding wildlife, the view of the bay from Boat Basin was truly the star of the show. Strong winds swept in from over the water, bringing in the tang of the salt from the far-off ocean in the air. Manatees and other marine life can sometimes be seen in the Basin, though I personally did not see any on that winter day. Everything around me had a calming effect, from the gently lapping water to swaying palm trees. All thoughts cleared from my mind and I was able to fully appreciate being in the moment, fully enjoying the natural scene surrounding me. Experiencing that is rare in the Miami, for this city is chaotic and never stops moving, not really allowing a moment to stand still and just breathe. Being at Boat Basin, and ultimately at the Deering Estate, showed me that there are small spaces carved into Miami’s landscape where you can get away from the city and noise for a little while, providing just enough room to have a fresh breath of air.

South Beach as Text

“South Beach: Behind the Building Facades” by Ana Ruas of FIU at South Beach

South Beach is the universal image of the city individuals think of when they hear “Miami.” One waiter in Paris told me, “Wow the beaches, they must be everywhere!” when I told him that I was from Miami, and even though he was right, this comment did reveal to me that Miami is almost exclusively synonymous to “beaches” around the world. If only they could see what else Miami, and specifically South Beach, has to offer, then the world would know that there is so much more to this unique city.

Here you can find the largest collection of Art Deco style buildings in the world, with the neighborhood being a designated National Historic District since the 20th century to preserve this unique architecture. Many hotels and buildings along Ocean Drive were built in the Art Deco style, having made the street one of the most famous and photographed in the world. Nowhere else can you find the futuristic looking details on the buildings, as well as the pastel colors that, when night falls, turn into bright neon that are reflective of the city’s vibrant nightlife.

South Beach has also had a deep-rooted history with the Jewish community, something even some native Miamians do not know much about. From the beginning, during the development of the neighborhood by Carl Fischer and Henry Flagler in the 1900s, Jews were frequently discriminated against. Many hotel and restaurant owners barred these individuals from their businesses, and some even utilized their prejudice to attract other potential clients, advertising statements such as “Always a View, Never a Jew” and “Gentiles Only.” The South Beach Jewish community withstood this treatment for many decades, and despite these transgressions, they have flourished and become a prominent force in the South Florida community; the Jewish Museum of Florida – FIU chronicles this history and aims to educate the general public on these past events through their multitude of exhibits.

Having learned all this, South Beach and the picturesque view from Ocean Drive may be the Miami the world sees, though there is more to the city than just bright colors and pretty oceans; there is a rich, and unfortunately turbulent, history behind these building facades.

History Miami as Text

“A Not-So-Detached History” by Ana Ruas of FIU at the HistoryMiami Museum

Miami sometimes feels more part of the Caribbean than of the United States. With the close proximity to these islands and their large influence on the city’s culture due to increased immigration since the latter part of the 20th century, Miami at times feels detached from the U.S. and its history. Despite this feeling, HistoryMiami does what any good museum sets out to do: it reminds its community of its history, no matter how disturbing.

Since even before the development of Miami, grave racial injustices were being committed against multiple groups, the first being the Tequesta Indians. Though historical records on these Native Americans are seriously lacking, it is likely that the Tequesta were subjected to relocation from their native lands to other parts of South Florida due to the colonization of the region by Spanish conquistadores. The Seminole Indians that migrated from Georgia and Alabama to the Miami area in the 1800s suffered a similar fate, though the white pioneers inhabiting the area befriended these Native Americans only to glean knowledge from them on how to survive off of the land. After that, they were forced to relocate once more due to the Indian Removal Act, which aimed to make ample room from the influx of white settlers to soon migrate from the North (“Second Seminole War”).

Injustices continue in this city, as shown via the HistoryMiami Museum Virtual Walking Tour, where images of the 1920s Buena Vista trolley are displayed with its original sign: “State Law: White Passengers Seat from Front;” it was disturbing to see how prevalent racial segregation was in Miami and so close to modern times, since these events took place less than a hundred years ago. Though what was the most impactful for me personally was seeing the photograph of the twelve African-American men credited with being “the black pioneers of Miami” destroying a Tequesta burial mound. Not only were these men only allowed to vote for the incorporation of Miami due to the economic benefits it would provide the business / construction tycoons making millions from the city development, these African-Americans were then forced to return to dismal working conditions and further forced to play an active role in destroying the little remaining history of the native Tequesta that previously inhabited Miami. Whites coercing one minority to destroy another; rather than poetic justice, this was poetic cruelty.

Miami’s history has a dark underbelly that many wish to ignore, though the HistoryMiami Museum did an excellent job of showcasing these commonly hidden stories and perspectives, showing that our community’s past is not so different from that of the country’s. HistoryMiami also provides hope to museum visitors that continued change can take place if the community is well informed and active in making these changes take place; all of that starts with opening up a dialogue, and HistoryMiami did just that.

Works Cited

“Second Seminole War.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 18 Apr. 2020, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Second_Seminole_War.