Italia Spring 2020 Ineffable Miami: Coral Gables by Daniela Valdes Posada

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Biography

I am an undergrad student at FIU with only one semester left before graduation. My degree will be in International Relations but I’ve found that my passion is diplomacy and political science. This year, I will be working on the 2020 presidential election as an organizer and hope that this opportunity will allow me to connect further with my community and its residents. In 2018 I graduated from Coral Gables Senior High and so for the most formative years of my life, I spent about 90% of my time in the city of Coral Gables.

The Gables

Geographical Profile

Image capture: Apr 2019 © 2020 Google

The geography of Coral Gables extends from the edge of Flagami and goes south until reaching Cutler Bay. In a matter of latitude, the bulk of Coral Gables runs between 57th ave and 37th ave (Douglas Road). As seen above, about 35% of the city is greenary, most of it being the R. Hardy Matheson County Preserve and the Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden.

History

The city of Coral Gables was founded in 1925 by George Merrick and it has been dubbed “The City Beautiful”. The founders of Coral Gables had aspirations that hit would become an international city and so they created ties with cities across Latin America and Europe. They were inspired by the City Beautiful Movement which included convoluted roads and lots of green space, as well as plazas and fountains.

Demographics

With a population of over 50,000 people, the median age of residents is 40 years old and data suggests that the median age will continue to drop. Because of the city’s elegant appearance, it only makes sense that the residents and lifestyle would be just as lavish. Living in Coral Gables means that you are at least middle class, with the median household income being about $96k a year. The cost of living in the city is 65% higher than the national average. The city of Coral Gables is made up of mostly hispanic or latino people, and 34% of the population being fully white. African Americans and Asians are a minority in Coral Gables.

Biography and interview of COral Gables Resident: Stephanie Revuelta

Stephanie Revuelta is 20 years old and was born in Miami. Her mother is from Nicaragua and her father from Cuba. Stephanie has lived in Miami most of her life. She attended Coral Gables Senior High for 4 years before moving into Coral Gables as a student of the University of Miami. Stephanie works as a hostess and has worked at several restaurants in Coral Gables. Although she has only resided in Coral Gables since starting at UM, she has spent the majority of her time in the gables over the last 6 years.

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What would you say is the biggest difference between just attending school in Coral Gables and living here?

Stephanie: Maybe just change of pace? When I was in high school, I came to gables for school and then I went home and sometimes went to Miracle Mile on the weekends. Since living here I’ve noticed that even as a college student, the way of life is much slower, calmer.

What’s your favorite part of the city?

Stephanie: The nightlife for sure. It’s very chill but not boring at all. Just walking down Coral Way, there’s a bunch of things to do.

And your least favorite part?

Stephanie: The slowness. Even though I appreciate the quiet and calm, sometimes it feels too slow, like even though the main roads are always packed, sometimes driving down the inner streets is a bit creepy. There’s not really many cars or even streetlights.

Having worked in Coral Gables as well other places in Miami, what’s different about working here?

Stephanie: Im a hostess, and I’ve only really ever worked at kind of higher end restaurants so I would say the biggest difference is the amount of people. Even though there’s a lot of people in Gables, most of the restaurants are really fancy and because we don’t get lots of tourists like we would in South Beach, the customers are mostly older, well off residents.

Landmarks

City Hall

Image Capture: Feb 2020

Located on Biltmore Way, City hall has a Mediterranean architecture style. It is on the National Register of Historic places and it is practically the first structure when entering the city. It marks the point in the city where most businesses are located. It is the focal point of the city, where the giant christmas tree is lit every year, and where the city farmers market takes place every weekend.

The Biltmore Hotel

Image Capture: Oct 2019

The Biltmore Hotel Miami was built in 1926 and is arguably the most historical structure in the entire city of Coral Gables. It was developed by the very founder of Coral Gables. Its extensive history has also made it infamous in Miami history. The Biltmore has always been known for its elegance and beauty, hosting galas and high profile events in its early days. During one of these events, gangster Thomas Walsh was killed in the hotel. During World War II, the Biltmore was used as a military hospital and then a veterans hospital after the war. In 1968, when the Biltmore became abandoned, rumors spread about the building being haunted. This was due to the amount of death surrounding the structure for the past several decades. Eventually the City of Coral Gables renovated the Biltmore into the hotel it is today. The tales continued and in the 90s there were even ghost stories told in the hotel lobby.

Green Space

In general, even in the spaces that are modern and populated, there is gorgeous greenery and landscapes in the city of Coral Gables. The streets are lined with huge trees and there are beautiful canopies all over the city.

Golf Courses

Image Capture: Feb 2019

The Granada and Biltmore golf courses are staples of Coral Gables, they take extend through the city and take up several hundred acres of land.

R Hardy Matheson County preserve

Image Capture: May 2017

This preserve is on the southern edge of Coral Gables and is 813 acres large. Although its size is impressive, the Hardy Matheson preserve is one of the lesser known aspects of the city of Coral Gables.

Fairchild tropical botanic garden

Image Capture: Dec 2019

Located on Old Cutler Road just like the Matheson Preserve, the Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden is known as one of the most beautiful spots in Coral Gables. The garden goes on for 83 acres and has one of the largest collections of palm trees in the country.

Transportation

THE TROLLEY

Image Capture: Jul 2019

The Coral Gables Trolley is the most notable of transportation methods in the city. The Trolley has one route along Ponce de Leon blvd and another down Douglas. It is a free service that began in Coral Gables in 2003. The Coral Gables Trolley connects with the City of Miami Trolley on Flagler Street.

Walking

Image Capture: Aug 2018

As cheesy as it sounds, the best way to get to know Coral Gables is truly to just walk around. Thankfully, a lot of the best spots to tour in coral gables are all along one street, Miracle Mile. It is highly populated with both people and establishments. There are hundreds of businesses to discover by walking a couple of blocks. Walking is truly the only way to explore this part of Coral Gables as traffic is truly a pain and parking is even worse.

Food

Bulla gastrobar

Image Capture: Jun 2016

If you’re looking for something a bit high scale (of course, this is the standard of a college student), the Bulla Gastrobar is the place to go. I stumbled upon this restaurant by pure miracle and honestly would probably never have stepped foot in the establishment on my own accord. To briefly explain, my friends and I were on the trolley after school one day when we made friends with a very disheveled looking older gentlemen, who looked a bit lost. Well he wasn’t lost, this man we just met got off at the trolley stop on 25 and ponce and told us to come into his restaurant for a late lunch. We were hesitant, but it was one of the best decisions we’ve ever made. Bulla Gastrobar is an open kitchen Spanish gastrobar with the best tapas in all of Coral Gables. While on the pricier side, the experience of sharing tapas with loved ones in the beautiful vibe of this restaurant is unbeatable. This is the perfect place for a night out with your significant other.

Ichimi Ramen

Image Capture: Dec 2019

On the more mellow vibe, when you’re out on the town with friends just looking for something quick but of good quality, Ichimi is the spot. The hipster restaurant makes delicious ramen and is definitely worth a stop if you’re ever in Coral Gables.

morelia

Image Capture: Nov 2017

As daunting as the out the door line at Morelia’s may seem. I can assure it is worth the wait. It’s not much of a wait, as you’ll likely be at the front of the line in under 10 minutes. Morelia is right in the center of Miracle Mile and is known for its mouth watering paletas. They are gourmet, and you can customize them to add as many toppings as you like for a flat price. The flavors range from anything as simple as chocolate, to more unique ones like strawberry cheesecake or dulce de leche. You can even have them turn your paleta into a smore. While the paletas are certainly their specialty, do not underestimate the milkshakes, which are equally delicious.

Businesses

Actor’s playhouse at the miracle theater

Image Capture: Aug 2018

This small local theater has put on some of the best productions I’ve ever seen. As a broadway fanatic, I have traveled all the way to New York to watch plays and musicals and yet this theater is one of my favorite places to visit. The tickets are inexpensive for a night out with the family and the staff puts on everything from Mamma Mia to Alice in Wonderland.

Books and books

Books and Books is smack dab in the middle of Coral Gables and is one of the coziest spots of the city. Its a local bookstore that has its own cafe and courtyard and is the perfect place for a relaxing afternoon. There’s a wonderful social atmosphere for a meeting to take place but it is still quiet enough for alone time with a nice book and coffee.

Sources

Areavibes. “Coral Gables, FL Cost of Living.” Coral Gables, FL Cost Of Living, http://www.areavibes.com/coral+gables-fl/cost-of-living/.

“Coral Gables, FL.” Data USA, datausa.io/profile/geo/coral-gables-fl/#about.

Duba, Julia. “A History Of The Biltmore, Miami’s Best Known Creepy Hotel.” WLRN, http://www.wlrn.org/post/history-biltmore-miamis-best-known-creepy-hotel#stream/0.

EvoGov.com. “About Coral Gables.” City of Coral Gables – About Coral Gables, http://www.coralgables.com/about-coral-gables.

Italia 2020 As Text: Daniela Valdes Posada

I am an International Relations and Poli Sci major with only one semester to go before graduation. I hope to one day work on Capitol Hill. I love to WATCH sports, specifically soccer. I am 20 years old and was born in Cuba but raised in Miami and I do not like cafecito.

“A Hoarder’s Compromise” by Daniela Valdes Posada of FIU at Vizcaya Museum & Gardens

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James Deering was nothing if not the most particular man on the planet. But it seems he collected just about everything he thought was valuable inside of Vizcaya. Every room inside of Vizcaya was full of something. Whether it was artwork or furniture or just a room of a bunch of different types of tile.  It seems like James saw something and he HAD to have it. Every single room in his “house” was filled, with just enough room to get from one door to another. His office was full of bookshelves of fake books and the walls with pictures of random children, all in his effort to appear to be a regular man. But this is the only way that James tried to be a regular man. In every other aspect he had to be best and have the most. There were rooms full of furniture and about 500 places to sit, although the placement of the furniture was odd and did not seem like it was meant to be sat on. James reminds me of my dad, who picks up and takes home everything he finds, even if we already have 3 of them. Except James collected items most people would kill for and that cost thousands of dollars. And my dad picks up everything he sees at the thrift store or dumpster downstairs. So I think it’s safe to say that like my father, James Deering was a hoarder, and Vizcaya was his Hoarder’s paradise, given its large amount of useless rooms. 

But while the interior of Vizcaya was a hoarder’s paradise, when he got to the outside, someone said “Enough.”  Even though there are thousands of different plants and flowers on the exterior of the house, there is plenty of open space. The amount of land that James Deering owned with Vizcaya was so extensive that Deering has several large stairs and gardens and different structures outside of the main house. Although it cannot be said that he did not do the most, considering his random balls of grass and elaborate raw artwork. I think Vizcaya provided the perfect land and structure to give James everything he wanted, with its extensive acreage and space, inside and out. 

“The First Ten Minutes” by Daniela Valdes Posada of FIU at Museum of Art and Design

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I was tempted to call this piece “Completely missing the point” because that’s what I felt I was doing during this whole day. We set out on this excursion to further our understanding of how Rome is everywhere and throughout the whole day we pointed out all the roman inspired architecture and art. And I understood it, I did, but there was a part of me that could not manage to connect to anything we learned about or saw, because my brain was stuck on the first ten minutes we spent at the Freedom Tower.

Even before we arrived I was nervous, I didn’t know how I was going to feel when I was standing inside the place in the US that possibly means most to my people. But the first ten minutes proved that my reaction would not be a slight one, although I think I did a pretty good job at hiding the fact that I was choking up the whole time, what with my silence and pretty dark glasses. The first ten minutes at the Freedom Tower were full of awe but also sadness. I had heard the story of what the Freedom Tower was before, but I somehow didn’t expect it to be so in my face. The first thing we took note of was a sculpture outside the building of a young boy carrying a house on his back, from the Pedro Pan operation, and already I had a million thoughts in my head but the main one was “pusimos la casa completa en una maleta” which translates to “we put the whole house in a suitcase”. It’s a line from a song on the Hamilton mixtape titled ‘Immigrants’. And it made me feel like I was that kid, with the house in a suitcase. It made me feel like everyone I knew was the kid, with the house in a suitcase.

I grew up in Miami and that meant most of my friends were little hispanic kids, who like me, had put their whole house in a suitcase. Most of us came from another country really young, I was 3 years old. And my grandparents weren’t Pedro Pan kids, but it feels like my parents and I were. We left Cuba with our whole house in a suitcase, to cheesily pursue “the American Dream” and we’ve done just that. So in the first ten minutes, looking at the pictures of all the little Pedro Pan kids who came here alone, and all went through the Freedom Tower, exactly where I was standing, made me unable to wonder anything except whether they too, had achieved the “American Dream”. I spent the rest of the day stuck on those first ten minutes.

“A Missed Opportunity” by Daniela Valdes Posada of FIU at The Deering Estate

Photo by JW Bailly CC BY 4.0

Personally, I think the most fascinating part of the Deering Estate is its easy access to water. Although Miami is known for its beaches and close proximity to water, its sometimes hard to find a spot to appreciate it that isn’t filled with tourists, boats or even just residents. It seems like the Deering Estate is one of the few places that can offer access to water and is actually serene and enjoyable. Not only can you walk along the Boat Basin and notice the beauty of the landscape but you may also see a diverse marine life. This is one of the best places in Miami to catch the sunset, something I’ll definitely be doing once the quarantine is over.

Something I’m really looking forward to is being able to have free access to Biscayne Bay. One of my favorite activities is kayaking and its something I regularly do with my friends. We first got into it on a short trip to the Keys and we’ve been obsessed ever since. After going back and forth between Miami and the Keys a couple times, we realized we had to find somewhere to kayak and paddle board that was closer to home.

Because of my love for kayaking (even though lately, I’ve gotten more into paddle boarding) is the reason I think that a visit to the Deering Estate was a missed opportunity. I took an environmental science class my freshman year at FIU and I became much more aware of our impact on the Earth, so I’ve been looking for ways to make a bigger impact than just eating less meat and driving less. There were plenty of chances to join FIU students for a cleanup on Chicken Key, and it’s one of my biggest regrets that I didn’t do it before.

“She loves me, She loves me not” by Daniela Valdes Posada of FIU at South Beach

Photo by JW Bailly CC BY 4.0

My relationship with South Beach is the most toxic relationship I have. Some days I abhor it, some days I only want to be there. Like anyone who’s grown up in Miami, I feel a bit differently about the places that most attract tourists to our city. Miami is one of the best places for the phrase “I live where you vacation”. And the appeal is there, we have beautiful beaches, the weather is always warm, and it’s a cultural hotspot. But Miami, and especially South Beach, has a lot of things for a local to hate too.

Growing up here gives you a different perspective, and while I can definitely appreciate South Beach, there’s times it makes me want to live somewhere else. Like during summer, when the amazing beaches attract an intense amount of tourists, who cause even worse traffic than we already have. The parking is ALWAYS a hassle, and it’s basically a game of luck, where you hope and pray that your car doesn’t get towed by the end of the day. There’s also the fact that no matter what time you go, or what time of year it is, South Beach is always crowded.

Despite all this, I think there’s more to love about South Beach than there is to dislike. For instance, there’s always something to do, whether it be going to one of the many restaurants, bars, the beach, or just hanging out. One of my favorite parts of living in a big city is not having to go to the same theater or bowling alley every Friday night. Aside from this, South Beach is a cultural hotspot. There’s shops and foods of all kinds and the fact that its a tourist attraction means there are always tons of people from all over the world at South Beach. It is one of the most important places on the list when visiting Miami.

“A 3D Experience” by Daniela Valdes Posada of FIU at History Miami Museum

(Photos Courtesy of HistoryMiami Museum ©)

Although I’ve never had the privilege of going to the History Miami Museum, I can tell that it is truly a unique experience. Unlike most museums, where the pieces are mostly on a canvas on the wall, or encased in a glass box, the “pieces”at the History Miami Museum seem to be interactive. Not in a way that you can play with them or anything but in a way that actually allows you to experience the scale, texture, and feel of the history being explained. It’s easy for a museum to explain history through a black and white painting or a small fragment of something significant or even a small replica. At the HistoryMiami Museum, it seems they take things a step further by recreating life size replicas of the things that correlate to history.

I’ve been to many museums in my life, and never noticed something so distinct. I’ve been in the Natural History Museum in New York and the Broad Museum in California, but I’ve never felt like I was actually experiencing history like I do with the HistoryMiami Museum. The life size recreation of the Trolley takes you back to the 1920s where black people were still made to sit at the back of the bus. Being able to be inside the trolley and read the signs for yourself is something that is inexplicable. I was also very impressed with the recreations of the different living structures in Miami’s history. The sections titled “Pioneer Life” and “Creek Migration” both have amazing life size replicas of structures from the time and standing under them and experiencing them gives you a whole different experience than it would if you were just looking at a photograph.