MIM Ineffable Miami Spring 2020: Wynwood-Ashley Diaz


Photo taken by Kaitlyn Diaz at Epcot Walt Disney World Resort, Florida.

Ashley Diaz was born in Miami, Florida, to Hispanic parents on October 9, 1999. She lived in Miami Gardens, Wynwood, and then Hialeah. She used to be a competitive swimmer and later became a lifeguard and Water Safety Instructor, where she teaches kids as well as adults how to swim. Ashley is currently attending Florida International University and studying computer engineering, hoping to get a Masters in Business Administration after her four years are completed. She is prone to be active and loves to explore the city that she lives so close to, with so much to discover she decided to take the Miami in Miami class offered at the Honors College in FIU taught by professor John William Bailly.




Interview with a Resident:







Works Cited:

MIM: Ashley Diaz Miami Service Project

At the start of my freshman year in high school, I had joined the JROTC program, which stands for Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps. It was a military-style class held in my school that had the intention of creating better citizens through the use of US Army values and leadership training. I had been excited for this since the beginning of eighth grade. I talked about the program to other people, and a friend of mine named Mario told me about one called the United States Naval Sea Cadet Corps. The Navy League of the United States funds this program, and it utilizes the values of the US Navy to discipline its cadets.  Being a swimmer, this had interested me, and I decided that I would join the program. Through it, I have met many people from different places in the United States and other parts of the world. As well as take part in various trainings that were provided by the Sea Cadet program. And here I am five years later still a part of the program after graduation as a volunteer on the weekends.

It was through this program that the opportunity arose to volunteer at a facility for an organization called Rise Against Hunger. This group had the goal of packing meals and delivering them to different parts of the world to people who need them. Rise Against Hunter wants to end world hunger by 2030. I was intrigued by this as I was sure it had interested many of the other cadets in the Sea Cadet program. Once the cadets in the Sea Cadet program heard the announcer in the room, say that they had to measure and place food within bags and seal them, they grew a bit fearful. Not sure whether they could complete the task asked of them.

Luckily everyone had gotten the hang of the tasks they were doing. People managed to switch jobs and had been able to complete each specific job at least once. After completing the tasks that day, I felt a sense of accomplishment and relief that I was a part of this. We had to measure rice grains and other dried foods to put into packets, then added spice packs to those food bags. After that, we would put them into bins and send them to other tables where they would be sealed and packaged in boxes. Throughout the event, the organizers had music playing, most of which were positive and upbeat music. The music set the tone for the volunteer event. It allowed people to be more receptive and willing to carry on conversations about their purpose for being there.

I ran from table to table, and once stationed at a table, I spoke to the ladies around me, I asked for their reason for coming to this event. Most of them had told me that they had been coming for years and that they come every year. On the other hand of the spectrum, children were volunteering as well, and I watched as they sealed packs of food or dropped dried foods inside of the packets. They were extremely eager to help and seeing the kind of work they were doing benefited people in need. Even though they did not see the people directly, they still managed to stay motivated in completing the objective and also had some fun. Because of the work that the cadets and I had done along with many other people in that room, we managed to pack 23,976 Rise Against Hunger meals. Those meals would be sent out to children and families around the world, and I am proud to have been apart of that.

Students putting up a tree at Camillus House

Less than a month later, a classmate named Blanca Alcaraz had arranged a volunteering opportunity at Camillus House. Volunteering here required us to help prepare for one of the largest fundraisers of the year. Honestly, whenever I thought of Camillus House, my mind would go straight to merely making and handing out food. I did not know the extent of the organization did. I had never looked into their programs, nor have I ever volunteered for them before. It was that day that I had learned everything about Camillus House and precisely what they do.

It was more than just a hot meal that they were providing these people who are homeless. They provided people with housing, clothes, educational opportunities, as well as a way to therapeutically decompress through art. These programs were unbeknownst to me and many others, I suppose. When we got to Camillus House, Alessandra Laricchia instructed us to put up a Christmas tree in the dining facility. Laricchia then got a tour of the campus, where we learned a lot more about the organization and how we could help even more with additional acts of donations or volunteering.

Group of students at Camillus House

Within the tour, we saw firsthand the housing that Camillus House provides to the homeless people. We also saw the clothes that were being donated by people. These clothes are not sold, but they were given directly to people who need them. Another thing that Laricchia told us was that essentials such as soaps, feminine hygiene products, and men’s and women’s clothes are often required.

The Career Help Program is just one of the programs that Camillus House has for people who need help obtaining employment. The organization paired up with companies who were willing to certify, train, and provide experience to those who have specific skills. They have areas that include culinary, warehouse, and housekeeping/general maintenance. We saw a participant who was going to graduate on that same day for her experience and work in culinary. On that graduation day, people come together, and the graduates prepare food for the celebration.

After the tour, Lariccia escorted us to a room where they had objects, artwork, and numerous wine bottles set to be sold at an auction at the Hilton hotel. This auction was to be their most significant fundraiser of the year. In previous years Camillus House raised at least 1 million dollars. The wines were donated by people who the organization had connections to, and the artworks were made by the people living at Camillus house through the art program that they had. Half of the profit would go directly to the artist and the other half to the art program at Camillus House. Selling these paintings is such a massive opportunity for people as they get a chance not only to express themselves but make a profit from it as well.

Flora Sweet pictured at Hilton Hotel

After setting up a colossal amount of wine bottles on tables, as well as arranging artworks on canvas holders, the bigger picture came to me. Camillus House is not just a place where people can go for a hot meal. It is more than that, and they can always use all of the help that they can get. They provide showers, food, career development, housing, and so much more than tangible deeds. It’s more about the services that they provide, the support, and the way that they make people feel as if they were at home. Many people who leave Camillus House and get back on their feet often come back and volunteer and want to give back. I feel that many people should want to do the same, even if they are comfortably living their lives. We should always find ways to give back.

Contact Information For Service Confirmation:

LCDR Reynolds Sanchez, USNSCC

US Coast Guard Miami Air Station

14300 NW 41st Avenue

Opa Locka, Florida 33054-2328

ALESSANDRA LARICCHIA |Community Relations Manager

1601 NW 7th Avenue, Miami, FL 33136 | camillus.org


MIM Ineffable Miami: Aventura

Ashley Diaz, Photo taken by Karen Ayuso

Student Bio:
This student’s name is Ashley Diaz; she is 20 years old and is interested in finding new ways to make tasks completed daily, vastly convenient, and straightforward. Ashley is a Computer Engineering student studying at Florida International University and is a member of the Honors College. There are many activities that she enjoys partaking in, as well as places that she likes to travel to. She has visited various places both within and outside of Florida. She thinks there are few ways to culture oneself that do not include immersing oneself into a different culture entirely and talking to the people around you about their opinions on pressing issues. Ashley grew up in various small apartments in Miami Lakes before moving back to live with her grandmother in Wynwood for about a year or so before moving into the house that she now lives in, located in Hialeah, Florida.

Picture from Landsat.com a map of Aventura and its surrounding areas.

The city of Aventura is located about 12 miles north of Miami, 12 miles south of Fort Lauderdale, and 1 mile west of the Atlantic Ocean. It has approximately 3 square miles of land and is a cosmopolitan city, according to the cityofaventura .com. As of 2010, according to census.gov there are approximately 13,484 people per square mile. Cosmopolitan defines the city as a blend of different ethnicities and has a busy and fast-paced workflow. Skyscrapers cover the entire city as well as condominiums, public parks, marinas, and other forms of businesses. It is not a city where you can easily walk around and get to places without transportation. However, there are many things to do in the city of Aventura. The geography is described best by that of a bustling city.

Aventura Then, Picture from Turnberry.com
Aventura Now, Picture from Turnberry.com

The name Donald Soffer is not very known to many; however, it really should be. The man has made monumental changes to what is now the city of Aventura. Before becoming the bustling city that it is, Aventura used to be marshland. Furthermore, up until recently, there were no tall skyscrapers, thriving businesses, and residential communities in such luxurious standards. It was Donald Soffer that had the vision of what the City of Aventura is today. Soffer became this successful real estate developer that he has today through the completion and development of Aventura. He bought 785 acres of land and saw this project as an opportunity to develop a city successfully. Soffer’s real estate company Turnberry is responsible for over $10 billion worth of both residential and commercial properties. Luxurious hotels, residential buildings, the Aventura Mall, and an art presence are all a part of their mission to developing the city of Aventura even further. Moreover, with over ten approved construction projects underway, the city just keeps expanding.

The city of Aventura is more than just luxurious grounds for expansion; it has the history of some notorious drug leaders as well. Some know them as the Cocaine Cowboys, and they were a ruthless group who, according to NY daily news.com smuggled approximately 10 tons of cocaine into Miami during the 1980s. From the documentary “Cocaine Cowboys: reloaded 2014,” Mickey Munday recounts the past operations of drug smuggling. One of the last standing Cocaine Cowboys, as he explains exactly how they were able to take pounds of dope and get it through Haulover Inlet, known to the smugglers as the “front door.” The “front door” was a kind of secret code that they would use so that they would not be caught by police saying Haulover Inlet, for example. After making it through the “front door,” The boats filled with drugs would then go to Maule Lake Marina, where they would park the boat and leave it overnight, and if it were untouched throughout the night, they would unpack the drugs and take it to a warehouse nearby. These places can still be visited today as they are close by, and being educated on this topic will allow someone to explore the area more analytically. To see how far precisely has the city of Aventura gone from what it was then to what it is now.

There is quite a mix of people living in Aventura today, according to datausa.io, just over 50% of the people are Caucasian. Just under 40% of the population are Hispanic or Latino. Black or African-American is the third most common race and ethnicity; however, they are still a small percentage of the population. In 2016 nearly half of the population of Aventura were foreign-born citizens. The three most common places of origin for the foreign-born citizens of Aventura included Cuba, Haiti, and Mexico. As of 2017, the population of Aventura is around 37,875 people, and of those people, the median age for people living in Aventura is around 50 years old. The mean household income is 57,388 dollars. Moreover, the poverty rate is just under 10%. Also, according to census.com, around 15% of people are over the age of 15 years old. With just over half the population of Aventura to be female and the other half would be male.

Aventura Slide Tower Taken by Ashley Diaz

One of the iconic landmarks within the city of Aventura is that of the Aventura Slide Tower. Artist Carsten Höller made this fully functional and operational slide that is also a work of art. Höller is known for making works of art within amusement parks and other forms of large-scale projects. On the Turnberry website, it states that the Aventura Slide Tower intended to convey a “voluptuous panic upon an otherwise lucid mind.” This Slide Tower is not the only form of art that is depicted within the Aventura Mall. There is also another interactive art piece named “Gorillas in the Mist,” this was made by twin brothers named Nikolai and Simon Haas. With a more naturalistic approach to their art, they have the scenic greenery in the background of their artwork to exemplify the purpose of this art piece. The Gorillas in the Mist is a fountain that consists of four bronze pieces, and that even includes bronze trees. The fountain is fully functional and used by children and families to cool down in the Florida heat.

Founders Park, taken by Ashley Diaz

Despite being a suburban area, the city of Aventura does have a few parks and green spaces. There is the Founders Park that includes a quarter-mile, track a splash pad of sort and a vast field in which people can play different types of games or sports. With residential ID, one can access the park as well as all of its amenities for free. However, if one does not live in Aventura, one must pay a fee of five dollars in tax for adults three dollars and tax per child. It seems as though one cannot escape the city as the skyscrapers tower directly above where these parks are. There is another small park known as the Veterans Park, which is open to the public and free to access. This park includes a field and also a playground area. Peace park is just another park within the city of Aventura. This one includes a covered playground and exercise area for adults and is approximately 1 1/2 acres. It also oversees a bay area that provides a gentle breeze for people enjoying the park and a great way to enjoy a day out at the park.

Bus Stop, Taken by Ashley Diaz

The city of Aventura offers some free transportation options for people. They have an adventure express shuttle bus that has roots going from Northern Aventura to Central Aventura and even Southern Aventura. Moreover, within the mall of Aventura, there is now a transit section where every shuttle always stops. There are six routes, and the busses are on an hourly schedule, so to reduce the wait time for passengers. Although traffic is a big hassle in a city like Aventura, most people who take transportation services within the city are residents. A beneficial add-on to the free transportation system that they have includes a tracking app. This free app allows passengers not only to see where the buses are in real-time but also allows them to conveniently see how long it will take them to get to their destination. Be mindful; however, it is essential to be aware that these free shuttles are not available on Sundays. Despite having free transportation, the majority of people do not take advantage of this. Most people would instead commute and or use a sort of taxi services such as Uber or Lyft to get around the city of Aventura.

Sicilian Oven, Taken by Ashley Diaz
Sicilian Oven, Photo taken by Ashley Diaz

There are many restaurants within the city of Aventura, many of which are located within the Aventura mall. Some have been award-winning such as the Cvi.Che 105, a Peruvian restaurant known for its incredible, creative, and traditional dishes. Chef Juan Chipoco is the owner of Cvi.Che 105 and has made a positive influence in the Hispanic community with his revolutionary spices and flavors that he has added to the restaurant industry and also throughout South Florida.

There is a small restaurant hidden within the mix of other small businesses and restaurants nearby. It is within a shopping mall center where Sicilian oven resides. A local pizzeria loved by most folks who come by to visit, their dark and welcoming atmosphere makes a warm place to have more than just a slice of pizza. With many different options, one can build one’s pizza, have a classic, or even choose from one of their specialties The Sicilian ham and cheese melt, rice balls, or Sicilian bruschetta. Founded by Ralph DiSalvo, The philosophy of the restaurant is to use only the best ingredients and flavor combinations. The recipes have been used for generations within the DiSalvo and Garavuso families.

Aventura Mall, Photo taken by Ashley Diaz

The city of Aventura has a plethora of businesses, many of which are large scale high-end, and other of which that are not as popular. Some stores include Adidas, Coach, Armani Exchange, Bloomingdales, and there is even an AMCs movie theater within the mall. The Aventura mall even has a Tesla dealership on the second floor indoors! With over 300 shops and boutiques and more than 50 restaurants, Aventura Mall is a destination for all who visit the city of Aventura. Aventura mall also has art pieces throughout the mall. There are a lot of events and promotions programs and even a kids club at Aventura Mall. These are things that are done throughout the year. Programs change seasonally to match the theme of the current celebration. These different programs and additions to the mall make it a thriving business within the city. It is a success with all of the locals and people who come to visit from around South Florida.

The city of Aventura has many great positives, as well as some shocking and unexpected history about it. This does include the past with the cocaine Cowboys. However, it is also an example of how a city can transform from an area with planes and no buildings as tall as they are today, to a place where skyscrapers cover the majority of the land. Aventura makes use of its location down in South Florida as a way to build its business industry as well as its reputation for luxurious amenities. When most people think of Aventura, they think of the Aventura mall and rightly so as the mall generates possibly most of the attraction within the city. Although the Aventura mall is not the only business, it is a very prominent one, along with all of the other high skilled businesses that live within and around the area of Aventura.

Learning more about Aventura has made an impact that is to be unexpected, from learning of the dark past to the bright, thriving industry that it has generated today. It makes for an enjoyable day well spent as one’s options are open to many different things to do. Although Aventura has a lack of green spaces and the city is majorly a bustling city. One can still enjoy their time in the city of Aventura. Furthermore, it has various cultural diversity in terms of works of art as well as businesses. Moreover, the city is gorgeous and riveting just to walk around and enjoy the scenic views and unique architectural projects.


“ABOUT US.” TURNBERRY, https://www.turnberry.com/about-us/.

“Aventura Express Shuttle Bus.” Aventura Express Shuttle Bus | Aventura, FL, https://www.cityofaventura.com/183/Aventura-Express-Shuttle-Bus.

“Aventura, FL Quick Facts.” Infoplease, Infoplease, https://www.infoplease.com/us/florida/quickfacts-us-census-bureau-2.

“Aventura, FL: Official Website.” Aventura, FL | Official Website, https://www.cityofaventura.com/.

“Aventura, FL.” Data USA, https://datausa.io/profile/geo/aventura-fl/.

“Peace Park.” Aventura, FL, https://www.cityofaventura.com/Facilities/Facility/Details/Peace-Park-6.

“Check Out Aventura Mall’s Hours, Contact Info, Designer Stores & More.” Aventura Mall, https://aventuramall.com/about-aventura-mall/.

Admin. “Announcing the 2016 Stem Action Award Honorees.” Regenerative Medicine Foundation, https://www.regmedfoundation.org/2016/11/03/anouncing-the-2016-stem-action-award-honorees/.

Center, Aventura. “Photo Gallery.” Aventura Center, https://www.aventuracenter.org/host-event/photo-gallery.

Cullen, Terence. “Cocaine Cowboy Mickey Munday, Who Ran Drugs into Miami during 1980s, Indicted in $1.6 Million Car Theft Ring .” Nydailynews.com, New York Daily News, 8 Apr. 2018, https://www.nydailynews.com/news/national/cocaine-cowboy-mickey-munday-indicted-1-6-million-car-theft-article-1.3139596.

Solutions, c2z. “Our Story.” Traditionally Crafted. Exceptionally Good. Enjoy the CVI.CHE 105 Experience, http://www.ceviche105.com/site/.

YouTube, YouTube, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=97OsxAp-VsU.

Miami in Miami: Ashley Diaz

Photo Credit to Karen Ayuso.

Hello, my name is Ashley Diaz and I am a sophomore at Florida International University currently studying Computer Engineering. I enjoy being active, trying new foods, and making people laugh. I am a hugely positive person who relishes a good laugh as well as good fun. That is one of the reasons I have decided to partake in this Miami in Miami class that the FIU honors college had offered its students. I was curious about the itinerary and how it would be different from my own experience having already lived in Miami my whole life. I was born here in Miami, and my family is a mix of Cuban and Puerto Rican. I hope that this class can broaden my knowledge on the place that I have called home my whole life.

Enough isn’t Enough.

By Ashley Diaz of Florida International University at Hialeah Station, Miami Metro Rail.


The initial thought running through my head as the class was boarding the metro rail for the day was that of this first assignment. I was questioning what exactly I would write about considering the numerous amount of locations to be visited in one day.  The metro had a rather straightforward route, despite feeling connected to the people around me I felt like there was room for more. As if I were not getting enough, and my mind craved the attraction of more people to the metro rail. For some reason, unbeknownst to me; this desire accompanied me throughout the day.

             The instant that we stepped into Jackson Soul Food in Overtown, there was that familiar sense of wanting and needing more attention. The workers there had set up the tables nicely for approximately 25 people and they did so without hesitation. They were welcoming us, and would gladly accept 25 more of us if they had the opportunity. To me, it was an example of a place that deserved all the recognition it could get.

            People who did ride the metro rail were either quiet and avoided eye contact with you or did the complete opposite of that. I appreciated that quality within people, those who were curious, asked questions, and communicated with me. Those who kept to themselves and buried their heads in their phones made it clear they had no intentions of speaking to anyone. And perhaps that could have made up for the lack of presence within the metro carts. For this desire to possibly be fulfilled, it needed to be satisfied with the souls of the city, and although I got some of it, it only left me craving more.

Underlying Beauty


Vizcaya has been a long-awaited trip within this class and I was not disappointed at all. First thing I would like to emphasize is that this Museum and Garden location is breathtakingly beautiful, not only on the outside but on the inside as well. There is an underlying attraction that it has as well, and though it can be explained it is better when one tries to find it on their own. Deciphering it can be a puzzle, for me, however, the feeling I had grown on me as I walked around the garden. I gather that beauty lies within the clever architecture.

As professor John Bailly made me aware of the cultural blend and emergence, that had been present throughout Vizcaya, I saw that as a fascinating idea. What fascinated me more was the comparison to Miami, there is a blend of culture just as there is one at the Vizcaya Museum and Garden. It should be a statement of pride when someone says that they are from Miami, simply because there are so many people who have different backgrounds and spread their unique upbringings throughout the city. Making it very diverse and therefore beautiful, that is what Vizcaya has brought to light. It has different styles within the estate, artwork or textiles created by people from different cultural backgrounds. If that doesn’t scream Miami I don’t know what does. The beauty of Vizcaya and the beauty in Miami are that way for a similar reason, it is the uniqueness and distinct cultural blend.

The Protection Much Needed

Photo by Ashley Diaz of Florida International University at Deering Estate, Florida.


This entire experience as a nature walk was greatly admirable and intriguing. It made me wonder what exactly do humans do that benefits the environment. Our guide Jennifer talked a lot about how every species mattered, from the smallest ones you could think of to the largest ones. No organisms played a small part in the ecosystem and that is what drives the idea of people also contributing to benefit the environment as well. With this in mind, all of the living things in the Deering Estate were meant to be left alone and not tampered with by any individuals, even those that would conduct research and excursions within the property. This was something I understood because throughout history people have done damage by simply living their lives and going about their day. And recently issues like climate change and plastic pollution have only gotten worse. Some of the areas were meant to be left alone and used as nature reserves and I thought that that was just a marvelous idea. This concept of not tampering with nature and just letting it overgrow into what it was meant to be is something that I feel more individuals should incorporate into their daily lives.

While looking at ways to better the environment around us I came across the idea of using less plastic. Plastic ends up in our landfills and our oceans and takes hundreds of years to break down, they are swallowed by wildlife and often endanger living things in the ecosystems. To me what this hike had shed light on was the issue of our changing society and how it’s affecting our environment. And coming across this plastic issue has led me to want to participate in the movement of using less plastic so that there is less of it going to waste and harming our environment. The living things that are in the Deering Estate and the living things around us are all connected and we should be more mindful of how our daily lives are affecting that of the wildlife. I am glad to have gone on the hiking excursion and learning more about the ecosystem and how it behaves was astonishing. And my goal is to try and preserve it so that we can hold on to what we have and perhaps we can even let nature overgrow into our society so that we may become one with nature and coexist without vexing interferences from one another.

Importance of Introspection

Photo by Ashley Diaz of Florida International University at Deering Estate, Florida.


Arriving at the Deering Estate, this would be the second time that I’d be visiting. This time to see something different, we were to visit Chicken key and conduct a clean-up there. This being no typical class we got there in a rather stylish way, everyone arriving on the island in canoes. Being someone who loves the water and has never been on a canoe, I couldn’t wait for this day of class. After all, it is not every day that you get to canoe with your class to an island to collect trash. This was indeed going to be a unique adventure regardless of anything else.

Having one of my closest friends as a partner I had a phenomenal time, and surprisingly one of the highlighted of the whole trip apart from actually collecting the trash was that of the reflective state that the silence in the water generated for me. What I mean by this is that when you are out in the open water, far from the land and far from people in general, things become much quieter, it is all simpler and you can become analytical. You can take an introspective look at yourself, but you can also look at nature around you. Observing everything in its natural state and letting yourself be immersed in it. I think that this mission was accomplished when we finally got into the water without the canoes and some of my classmates had gone too far deep into the marshes that they would be stuck for some time. Others like myself only experienced a slight change in the muddiness of the ground. All in all, I feel that this trip was wonderful and I felt the need to look within myself as well as observe the things around me so that I could feel like I am one with it.

A trip down memory lane.

Photo By Ashley Diaz of Florida International University at Wynwood, Florida.
Olafur Eliasson Your now is my surroundings. 2000 Margulies Collection.


I have lived in Wynwood for a big chunk of my childhood, I went to preschool there and also elementary school. When I was a kid I would bike with my grandfather from his house to bayside, and we managed to speak with each other even though he knew a little bit of English and I only knew a little bit of Spanish. Despite the language barrier, I loved spending time with my grandparents, whether we would stroll or ride a bike around the neighborhood. Since then, however, Wynwood has changed a lot and even my grandparents who have lived there for decades now have a difficult time keeping up with all of the changes. They keep telling me how there are many new restaurants and art events literally in their backyard. I, of course, was aware of all the new changes to Wynwood, it had been a popular site for many since the different events began.

When we went to visit the contemporary art collections I kept picturing the old Wynwood, the one that I knew so well and grew up in. I liked how the art sometimes had a timeless theme like the piece by Olafur Eliasson Your now is my surroundings. 2000 found within the Margulies Collection. This piece made me look at the way things are and realize that although it changed it is not going to change the way that I see Wynwood. I think it is this piece that is supposed to make you feel as if you share the same surroundings that the people before you have shared and nothing will change that fact. It is a nostalgic trip for me to go to Wynwood, even though it has changed, I will always view it as a second home.  

An Immersive Experience

Photo by Ashley Diaz of Florida International University, at Historical Museum of Southern Florida

History Miami Museum as Text:

The empty halls and the smell of old artifacts had set the mood for the History Miami museum. I doubt many people know simple historical facts about Miami, and this lack of participation is making it clearer to me. I would hope that more people become interested in the past lives of those who have lived in this place we call our home. What made them behave the way they did, what drove them to come here in the first place? Many of us who have lived here our whole lives are not aware that many have struggled where they originated from and for that they come seeking a better life in such places as Miami.

The History Miami museum does a superb job of immersing its visitors in the past, with the real-life artifacts that it has. It was surprising to be able to interact with some of their models. For example, they have a trolley on display that is fully functional and all it needs is to be set on some tracks. You can press the buttons within it and it will ring as if you were an actual passenger who needs to get off of the trolley. I find this along with the pictures in the background of Miami in the 1940s to be enveloping. Then, of course, there was the more recent example of the raft that Cubans had used to travel from their home country to Miami. This brought back memories to a visitor to the museum who was actually on that raft, along with some of his family members and friends. This kind of impact is monumental and is the kind of thing that makes the museum so unique to the Miami culture.

Unique Forms of Expression

Photo taken by Ashley Diaz of Florida International University, at UNTITLED Art Fair. Miami, Florida.

Miami Art as Text

As hot as Florida often gets, I was thrilled that the day we went to the beach for the UNTITLED art fair, the weather was relatively cool. There was a slight breeze where we were by the beach, which made the endeavor that much more enjoyable. Having an art fair right by the beach seemed like an odd idea to me at the beginning, I never knew that the art was so well received here in Miami. However, looking at the art fair from within and seeing the beach from the inside was breathtaking. It was almost picture-perfect how the beach looked, and while living in Miami, the beach practically never looks that beautiful.

Initially, the class had participated in one of the artist’s projects. His name is Xavier Cortada, and he had the intention of sending a message to people living in our world a century from now. Which entailed us writing letters to someone, and it could be anyone, telling them how we feel or perhaps asking them how things are. His associate did not tell us what to write; however, information about climate change and how it affects not only polar bears and the Arctic ice but also us in our daily lives. I have done a lot of research on this topic and know very well that we are facing a monumental challenge. This challenge is to better ourselves not only for the environment but for future generations. Things are going to happen, and we are not going to be prepared for the consequences if things don’t change now. I believe that this is what Cortada had in mind when he wanted us to complete this letter to future generations. I think he intended to make us think about what exactly are we doing in our lives now and what can we do differently.

When we entered the UNTITLED art fair, there were many different kinds of art on display. It wasn’t just one theme; it wasn’t only one collection; it was something mashed together beautifully. The artwork was unique, to say the least, it was really unlike something I’ve ever seen before. And I was able to appreciate it a lot more because I saw so many different kinds of artists. There was art made from textiles, plants, candlewax, and planners. You could not possibly grasp the entirety of the event. There was just a multitude of various styles that I had never really thought of before, and I thought they were quite clever. I believe that this is the meaning of art. It allows people to think outside the box, conveying an idea, or perhaps wowing them with a unique way to Showcase your purpose. Even though Miami has just recently been a scene for artists, I believe that these art fairs are intriguing and can get a lot of people into the art scene.

An Underestimated Beauty

Photo by Ashley Diaz of Florida International University, Everglades National Park, Florida.

Everglades as Text:

I remember I had woken up to the alarm at 5:10 AM; the weather was 38°F. That temperature is so unusual for Florida that I had thought to myself why on earth this day of all days should it be so cold. Of course, today was the day that we were to hike around the Everglades to do something called slogging. I had never done this previously; however, the experience that I had was quite enjoyable and entertaining. I had gone to the Everglades before, and I have lived in South Florida all my life, but I’ve never gone sloshing. I even recommended it to a few friends after the fact. Slogging is when you move through water or mud, we used sticks to prevent us from falling into holes, but that seemed inevitable. I fell into a hole that went all the way to my upper thigh, and I only fell into it with one leg. 

With Florida’s swampy areas, it seems like the perfect place to go ahead and do it. Not many people know about it, and even if they do, they would not want to step foot into the water for some reason. Perhaps it’s the wildlife that scares people off or also just the fact that they would have to be okay with getting down and dirty. Whatever the case, maybe it’s safe to say that very few people appreciate the land that they live near. The Everglades National Park is the 10th largest national park in the United States, even more extensive than the Grand Canyon, located in Arizona. Unfortunately, people don’t really seem to grasp the importance or just how fascinating the Everglades can be. The shortage of participation within the park or the lack of excitement from people who live in South Florida is quite evident of that. I think it is a good idea for people to talk more about the Everglades and just how beautiful it can be. The wildlife and all of the different aspects that make it unique. It’s right in your backyard, and you don’t have to take a plane to get there, especially if you live in South Florida, but it is a place that people should learn more about. 

Art Deco Influence in Miami

Photo Taken by Ashley Diaz of Florida International University, South Beach, Florida.

South Beach As Text:

Taking a walk down South Beach to Lincoln Road, one would notice the symmetry and the retro fashion of the structures. This form of architecture is known as art deco. Though introduced in the 1920s in Paris, France, it became quite popular in South Florida, Miami specifically. After all, there is an organization called the Miami Design Preservation League, which has taken precautions to protect Miami’s collection of art deco buildings. The league founded in 1976 by a woman named Barbara Baer Capitman is the oldest Art Deco Society in the world, according to their website. Also, pictures of Miami from the past can be seen on the website, and it is refreshing to see how individual buildings were left untouched for the most part. 

The buildings have a futuristic nature of design compared to some of the skyscrapers that paint the Miami skyline. Made to look like a machine had made the designs as opposed to a human. The art deco styled buildings on South Beach are unique and bring distinction into Miami. One only wishes that there were more buildings such as these sprinkled around South Florida so that we could admire them more frequently. Few times have I gone to South Beach to admire the buildings and the lavish views it provides, despite living in Miami my whole life. One would hope that more and more people who live nearby will take the time to observe and to see the trends in these buildings—comprehending exactly why there are buildings with different labels on them and the reasons behind this. Leading them to learn of the people behind preserving South Beach’s appearance and slowing down development in order to receive a more historic look.



Wonders of the Lotus

Ashley Diaz sweeping at Lotus Center, Photo Taken by Jena Nassar .

Lotus Center as Text:

On this day, the class took a trip to a women’s shelter called Lotus House, never having visited a women’s shelter before it was an eye-opening experience. The individuals who used the center as a home were women and children of all ages; one would not be able to imagine that these people were once homeless and had to fend for themselves. The women who ran the day to day operations at the lotus center were graduates of the program and had seen the success that this journey offered. So long as the women took this opportunity and utilized the advice given to them, they would be sure to find that the support given to them would aid them in more ways than one.

Individuals may not be aware of the extent that the organization’s staff, volunteers, and the women themselves had to undergo in order to reach their goal of independence. It is the reason that an essential tool for these organizations is the support that they get from people who have the means to help out and the right mindset. On this class day, we were tasked with different objectives. Some students were moving packages and other objects into a moving truck, others such as myself were in charge of sanitizing different rooms that often held the crowd of many of the women. Towards the end of the day, it was lunchtime, and we observed more of the women and their children as they came in and waited in line for a nutritional meal. It consisted of corn soup, a fruitful and colorful salad, and finally, either a fish sandwich or a veggie burger. Two students volunteered for the task of serving food to people who waited in line and added that to their experience while at the Lotus House. When one learns new things about the organization and how they can make an impact, it motivates others to take action and get involved in their communities. Furthermore, after seeing first-hand what those actions can do for other people, it can make someone feel just as good as the person receiving help.