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.