France 2020 Ineffable Miami: Little Havana by Jorge Jacob

Biography

Jorge Jacob is currently an Honors college student at Florida International University pursuing a degree in Biochemistry. He has plans to graduate Fall 2020 with the idea of entering Medical school soon after in order achieve his goal of becoming a doctor. At the moment Jorge works at the FIU Mastery Math Lab and is involved in helping students learn multiple math concepts involving College Algebra, Precalculus, and Trigonometry. A few of his passions include playing video games, cooking, gardening, space exploration, and science. Found below are several reflections written about locations visited during the Spring 2020 France Study Abroad Program.

Geography

History

Demographics

Landmarks

Green

Transportation

Food

Businessess

Summary

France Spring 2020 As Texts: Jorge Jacob

Jorge Jacob is currently an Honors college student at Florida International University pursuing a degree in Biochemistry. He has plans to graduate Fall 2020 with the idea of entering Medical school soon after in order achieve his goal of becoming a doctor. At the moment Jorge works at the FIU Mastery Math Lab and is involved in helping students learn multiple math concepts involving College Algebra, Precalculus, and Trigonometry. A few of his passions include playing video games, cooking, gardening, space exploration, and science. Found below are several reflections written about locations visited during the Spring 2020 France Study Abroad Program.

Vizcaya as Text

Top Left: Picture of the Vizcaya Gardens. Top right: Picture of the walkway Vizcaya Museum. Bottom: Picture of the front entrance to Vizcaya

“The Metamorphosis of Vizcaya”
By Jorge Jacob of FIU at Vizcaya Museum and Gardens

Vizcaya to me was always one of those touristy places that people on vacation come to see and that I as a Miami native didn’t need to visit. I was born in Miami, I’m not some out of state tourist that wants to see an old timey gilded age house and take pictures in some garden.

My first visit to Vizcaya is long forgotten to me as it was during my early childhood, but I can safely say that I did not take in anything that the museum had to offer to me.

My second visit to Vizcaya is far more recent but it involved treating Vizcaya as a setting rather than an event of importance. The occasion for the visit was for an anniversary date with my girlfriend; we drifted along the corridors and gardens of Vizcaya gazing and taking in the views but never looking further. We did not focus on what they meant or tried to emulate. The only idea formed was that we were stepping back in time and looking at an old house that was related to some guy named Deering. Of course, I was enamored by the big rooms and blatant displays of wealth that could be seen throughout the house, but I never questioned the why of it all, it was just a place I was visiting and having fun. One thing that always blew me away was the size of the garden and the feelings of serenity and grandiose that it seemed to project. Thinking back on this maybe Deering would have liked me as a guest at his house so that he could live off the feelings of amazement that I was giving off during my visit there, also so that he could humbly brag about his great winter house.

My most recent visit was an educational one involving a visit to Vizcaya with the sole purpose of getting to know the place in terms of both artistic value and the idea behind what made Vizcaya. Just by looking at Vizcaya, going through the house and gardens one can easily assume the person who made this place was wealthy beyond measure and this villa in the middle of the forest was meant to be a symbol of that wealth and the elitism emanating from that wealth. But as I learned throughout my tour of the premises Vizcaya was not only a display of wealth but a very blatant one that was means to show off various European cultural ideas together in a manner that pleased James Deering. The Vizcaya estate was the love child of the baroque, rococo, and neoclassical movements as these styles were all present over the house, although separated by room, and going from room to room the change in styles can clearly be seen. The baroque rooms filled with symmetry and organized structure with everything specifically placed, the rococo rooms having ornaments covering every possible inch of the walls and the organic ideas (flower painting and plant like décor) flowing throughout, the neoclassical rooms taking ideas from the past allowing for a rebirth of the classical ideas but with a new twist. All these styles although different were meshed well together in order to give Vizcaya that perfect feel of European culture in terms of style and hedonistic qualities. The house itself was astonishing in terms of furnishing alone but just because it references all these older styles of European origin that it did meant it was a house of the past as it contained heating and ventilation, two elevators, a dumbwaiter, refrigerators, an automated telephone switch board, a central vacuum-cleaning system and a partly automated laundry room. The next portion that has astounded me since I first laid eyes on it and is really my favorite portion of Vizcaya are the gardens and outside areas. There was so much that I missed in terms of my first visit where I had never noticed that the entire garden was made to be completely symmetrical, the histories of the secret garden, the grottoes that can be found all throughout the garden and the magnificent fountains, even though some were not turned on the message still came across. These gardens are meant to emulate the French and Italian gardens of Europe, an example would be the garden of Versailles copying the idea of symmetry and the maze area, essentially the idea of imposing order on nature. The trip was not a full tour of the premises, but it offered enough to plant a seed in one’s head that leads them to further think of what Vizcaya means as a house and as a cultural motif.

My next visit will be a thorough and thoughtful one, it will involve a slow walk through the house monitoring all the details and taking in the various reflections of ideas that can be found strewn upon the house. I will walk through each room thinking of the bigger picture going back in time and comparing the possible feelings held at the time Vizcaya was built and compare it to the feelings it invokes in me in the present. I will stroll through the gardens and sit in the grottos, imagine a play being performed in the garden theater, picture the fountains as fully function and really embrace the idea of the garden. I will be doing this next visit alone and it will simply be a conversation between Vizcaya and me.

Freedom Tower as Text

Photos taken at Miami Freedom Tower Museum

“The Eternal Search For Freedom”
By Jorge Jacob of FIU at Miami Freedom Tower

Freedom is defined as the power or right to act, speak, or think as one wants without hindrance or restraint

It is 1959, after years of fighting against a corrupt government led by dictator Fulgencio Batista finally change is coming. This change arrives in the form of Fidel Castro, who along with other fellow revolutionaries, had been leading the fight to overthrow the corrupt government. Castro with the support of the Cuban people was sworn in as the prime minister of Cuba, and soon he began making moves to change the governmental system. Although constantly publicly denying his changes as socialist or Marxist, Castro’s policies took great influence from these ideals. Private land was seized from both wealth and foreign landowners, redistributing it amongst citizens and itself. Production of commodities such as sugar and oil refinement were nationalized. There was a major emphasis placed on social projects especially education, healthcare, and infrastructure. Eventually Castro finally self-labeled himself as a Marx-Leninist and openly dealt with other communist countries such as the Soviet Union and Communist China. Although Castro’s policies were in favor of the working class and the Cuban people, the government itself was becoming very reminiscent of the Soviet Union in the manner of establishing a one-party state that had control of trade unions, a complete lack of freedom of press and speech, as well as a suppression of civil liberties. The major shift in priorities resulting from policy changes, improper fiscal management, and decrease in productivity due to middle class professional leaving led to the steep economic decline of Cuba and left its future in a fragile state. The fear developed over the course of the Castro administration was appropriate and lead to wanting to preserve the future.

This preservation of the future was seen in the form of protecting the children from the rise of Castro’s administration. Not only were the conditions in Cuba a worry for citizens but during Castro’s push for education there was a reform in educational strategies that involved the opening of youth camps, closing of secondary and private schools, and sending children to the Soviet Union to study different careers. This fear of governmental suppression and worsening conditions became so strong that many parents were thinking about performing the unthinkable, sending their children away, without knowledge of where they were going, from Cuba so that they may have a better future. The result of this sentiment was Operation Peter Pan in which over 14,000 children were flown from Cuba to Miami and other parts of the US to escape the Castro regime, with the operation only ending due to the end of all air travel between the US and Cuba due to the Cuban missile crisis. This to me is one of the craziest aspects of the peter pan flights in that parents would rather send their child away to unknown lands rather than have them stay any longer under the communist regime. These parents did not know if they would ever have the chance of seeing their children again but with the hopes of preserving the future they braved through the pain and managed to save their children. Family life was at the center of life in Cuba and yet both parents and children understood enough that in order to continue forward these bonds would need severed for a brief period of time and maybe even forever.

I am of Cuban descent and even though I may be young I can understand the struggles and fears that possibly went through their minds. Although, neither my father or grandfather were a part of the peter pan flights they were victims of the oppressive Castro regime and because of this oppression I understand their fight for freedom. My grandfather was taken as a political prisoner due to his opposition to the Castro regime but was luckily able to escape Cuba and get to Miami due to Castro trying to get rid of Cubans that opposed what he was doing. This left my father and his family without a father for a few years, but relatives and other people were able to help them out. This continues until my father reaches 18 years old where with help of my grandfather, he was able to get out of Cuba and take refuge in Panama, again in search of a better future and freedom. Since they managed to do this procedure legally, he was completely safe in Panama and Cuba had no rights to him as a Citizen, essentially, he was free from the Cuban regime, but the only issue was now getting to Miami. My father stayed in Panama over the course of 4 years working many different jobs and never giving up hope of reaching the US in order to reunite with my grandfather. This chance of getting to the US came through various immigration policies regarding Cubans that allowed them easier access into the US. Through these new policies my father was able to immigrate over to the US and join my grandfather in Miami. Once he arrived in Miami with the help of his father and relatives, especially one of his uncles, he managed to get a job, his driving license, a bank account, social security, health insurance, and many other necessities and paperwork that is needed for life in the US. Fast forward a few years later to my birth and current life, I am currently 21 years old and a citizen of the US, I live in a free country striving for greatness. At 21 years I am a little older than the age that my father left his country to completely start a new life in Panama and upon some reflection at this idea it amazes and humbles me; the experiences and struggles that my father has been through in the name of freedom have been extraordinary, these experiences are also seen in the peter pan flights.

Although I point out during this writing the experiences that some Cubans have lived through does not mean that this search for freedom is exclusive to them. Constantly people throughout the world exist with the yearning for freedom and many of them, like my father and the peter pan children, throw themselves with a leap of faith if only to experience this possibility of freedom. Due to my fathers yearn for freedom, I am a product of the Eternal search for freedom and I will never forget it.