On Wednesday, March 11th the Miami in Miami class volunteered at The Lotus House. The Lotus House is a nonprofit women’s and children’s homeless shelter located in Overtown, Miami. They provide free housing, meals, health care, several kinds of counseling, education for kids and adults, training, amenities, clothing, and so much more in support to women and their children. The Lotus family provides support for these families to heal and grow, so that they may get back on their feet and rebuild their lives and regain independence.
On our day of service, we helped “behind the scenes” in the kitchen prepping meals, on the loading dock cleaning and organizing, in the donation closet inventorying, and in the common area sanitizing. While these tasks don’t help a tenant directly, it facilitates daily operation of the shelter. Which in turn allows the shelter staff to work more efficiently and effectively.
My team and I were first stationed at the loading dock. We sorted through former tenants’ belongings that were left behind. A couple items were able to be reused, but most of the items were to be discarded. Once the truck was fully loaded, we scrubbed the floors and wiped the shelves. A delivery of emergency COVID-19 supplies arrived. We organized those supplies on the shelves. The loading dock was squeaky clean and ready for use.
I was then tasked with sorting and organizing a couple boxes of donations in the gift closet. The staff explained that gifts aren’t only for Christmas. They use this present stock year-round on birthdays, milestones, graduation, holidays, raffles, etc. It’s important that the tenants, especially the children, feel happy and loved at the shelter. Many of the mothers are not able to afford a birthday gift for their child, so the shelter is ready to put a smile their face.
We were invited to eat lunch at the shelter’s cafeteria. It was such a pleasure to meet more of the shelter’s staff members. We were also thanked by many tenants for being there and for our hard work.
On our last task, we were able to get a bigger glimpse of the shelter. We went floor by floor sanitizing the tables, chairs, and sofas in the common areas and family rooms. We could tell the messier floors were the children’s floors. We met one boy who was looking for help on his math homework, but unfortunately, we had to go.
It was a great experience at the Lotus House. The atmosphere was light and lively despite all the sad stories that lead each person there. The shelter is definitely a place I will be volunteering at again.
Chicken Key Turtle Sculpture
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Seafood Festival at the Deering Estate was canceled. Nevertheless, we were still able to construct our project! Our team wanted to piece together trash collected from Chicken Key into a turtle sculpture. The project would reflect on all the liter in our ocean, and how it is affecting our marine life. We wanted to raise awareness on the issue of pollution. Nicole Patrick partnered with The Deering Estate to organize and host frequent clean ups of the key right off the estate. This one little island was being cleaned almost every weekend, and still there is so much trash that incessantly washes up there. That is one island, imagine everywhere else.
Hi! I am Juliana Pereira, an accounting student at Florida International University, also enrolled in the Honors College. I was born and raised in Miami, Florida. Daughter of two Brazilian immigrants. Although I’ve spent all 20 years of my life in Miami, I knew so little about my hometown. Fortunately, I had the spectacular opportunity of exploring Miami with new eyes this semester. Now I’m in love with this city more than ever!
The Village of Pinecrest
Geography + Infrastructure
The Village of Pinecrest is an incorporated municipality in Miami-Dade County since March 12, 1966. As shown in the map above, Pinecrest is mostly a residential area. Pinecrest has 8 public parks and recreational facilities. All Pinecrest businesses run along the Commercial Corridor, discussed later in this report.
One of the most efficient characteristics of Miami infrastructure is the numerical nomenclature of streets. Pinecrest continues to use that concept, but they have also honored significant historical figures by naming certain streets after them. Franz and Louise Scherr Street honors the founders of Parrot Jungle, Montgomery Drive is named after the founder of Fairchild Tropical Gardens, and Chapman Field Drive salutes World War I aviator Victor Emmanuel Chapman.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, Pinecrest is home to approximately 19,000 residents in about 6,000 households. Most residents are between the age of 18 and 65. At 88%, majority of residents are White, while 46% of the population are Hispanics/Latinos. Of those residents 25 years or older, 96% have at least a high school degree and 64% have a bachelor’s degree or higher. The median household income is $152,000 a year.
In the early 1900s, Henry Flagler began construction on the Overseas Railroad down to the Florida Keys. The area that is now Pinecrest, was used as a staging area for this construction. After the completion of Flagler’s Railroad, a community began to form around the former staging site. In 1936, Parrot Jungle was established by Franz and Louise Scherr. The attraction became internationally well-known, tourists were coming from all over to visit. In the 1950s and 1960s, the area was developed into the backbone of today’s Pinecrest; ranch-style homes. Due to the rapid growth of the area, residents Evelyn Greer and Gary Matzner led a movement to incorporate the Village of Pinecrest. Greer was elected the first mayor, succeeded by Matzner after two terms.
The most common form of transportation used by residents of Pinecrest are their own vehicles. Nevertheless, Pinecrest offers free public transportation via bus within the village –The Pinecrest People Mover. This service is mainly used by students commuting to and from school. The People Mover connects with the Miami-Dade Metrobus allowing for a passengers to be able to commute to other areas out of Pinecrest. The latest transportation service to be introduced is the Pinecrest FREEBEE. By downloading an app, users can request free rides within the village and to the metro rail station. FREEBEE vehicles are electrically-powered, therefor consistent with Pinecrest’s green eco-friendly ideals.
Green Spaces + Recreation
Pinecrest is committed to keeping their community green and sustainable. Pinecrest’s Green Action Plan calls for waste and energy reductions, eco-friendly cleaning and landscaping processes, and reduction of environmental impact. These policies are adopted by residents, schools, and businesses of Pinecrest. Not only do these efforts provide environmental benefits to the community, as well as economic benefits; cost reductions to taxpayers.
Whether it be in public parks, along the streets, and even on residential properties, Pinecrest has shown great dedication to its community forestry. The Arbor Day Foundation recognized The Village of Pinecrest as a Tree City USA for their accomplishment of lining the neighborhood’s streets with more than 10,000 trees.
Pinecrest Gardens, formerly known as Parrot Jungle, is a Cultural Arts Park dedicated to celebrate and preserve the botanical heritage of South Florida. The site is home to 3.3 acres of tropical hardwood hammock and over 1,000 species of rare exotic tropical plants. Pinecrest Gardens displays exhibitions of contemporary artworks, such as The hARTvest Project and The Cortada Projects. In addition to these permanent attractions, Pinecrest Gardens also hosts a plethora of events including markets, festivals, musical and theatrical performances, dance recitals.
Art + Landmarks
The Village of Pinecrest has partnered with several artist to create artworks to be displayed on the streets of the village, quite literally. One of Pinecrest’s most recent Public Art projects was Xavier Cortada’s Elevation Drive murals. The murals demonstrated the impact of rising sea levels. On the 2018 Pinecrest Sun Newsletter, Village Manager Yocelyn Galiano explained that, “the Village [partnered] with environmental artist Xavier Cortada on a participatory public art project to raise awareness and discussion of this important issue. The true purpose is to raise awareness—through art—and if a civil discourse ensues, then we will be better off as a community.”
Business + Food
Pinecrest Parkway (U.S. 1) — The Commercial Corridor
The U.S. Route 1 runs 2,377 miles north to south through the United States, connecting Fort Kent, Maine to Key West, Florida. The portion of the route that runs along the Pinecrest area, is known as South Dixie Highway and Pinecrest Parkway. This major highway serves as the village’s main commercial corridor.
According to Eater Miami, these are a few essential Pinecrest Restaurants:
“This hidden hole-in-the-wall is one of Pinecrest’s oldest established eateries. For more than 50 years sports bar Keg South has been serving judgment free American fare including burgers, wings, dawgs, fries, poppers and cold beers. Patrons come to watch the local sports on the jumbo screens, shoot some pool or to just hang out while enjoying their food despite the fact that it’s actually a little difficult to find. Once you figure out that you enter through the alley, you’ll never forget how to get there again.”
“Serving fresh daily caught local and worldwide seafood and house-made specialties for more than 20 years, owners Bill and Audrey Bowers have made Captain’s Tavern the go-to place in Pinecrest for seafood lovers. This modest and comfy establishment with custom built aquariums throughout strives to keep up with modern cuisine by using the newest and trending ingredients while staying true to its origins. Captain’s Tavern also has an extensive, award-winning wine list to enhance your meal as well as a fresh seafood market next door. And don’t miss its Tuesday Night special with two-for-one Maine Lobsters each weighing more than one pound each.”
Roasters’ N Toasters
“A Pinecrest staple since 1984, it offers patrons the true taste of a New York deli and serves as the original location of Roasters & Toasters, which now has three additional eateries in South Florida. At Roasters & Toasters you’ll find traditional New York style fare such as house-made bagels and schmears plus breakfast dishes including smoked fish platters, corned beef, pastrami and Reuben sandwiches, soups, wraps and larger plates like stuffed cabbage and meatloaf. Make sure to check out the Specialty Sandwiches’ Menu boasting bigger-than-your-mouth sammies like the West Side Story and Trifecta.”
The Village of Pinecrest is more than just a neighborhood, they are a family. A community that deeply cares about their environment and their efforts to improve are constantly recognized. The village’s governing council always thinking about their residents’ well-being. Pinecrest has beautiful and well-cared-for houses, parks, schools, and businesses. Their efforts to conserve nature, embrace culture, promote sustainability, and create awareness of issues differentiates The Village of Pinecrest from any other neighborhood I have visited in Miami.
For the 4th consecutive year, Saint Catherine of Siena Catholic Church’s Brazilian Community organizes a holiday toy and food drive. This was the second year I worked hands-on throughout the full process. On the first Sunday of November, we announce the start of our annual project.
Mexican immigrants come to Homestead temporarily to work in the harvest. Their stay can prolong from 2 months to over a year. They mainly work during, “the [tomato] harvest season extends from December to May” (Y. C. Li, Tomato Production in Miami-Dade County, Florida). When it rains heavy, they may stay days without working. Their pay is just enough to keep the themselves clothed and fed. These immigrants all live in a community near the fields. Many families bring their children with them. While the parents are working all day long, the kids need to go to school. Some children are old enough to attend a primary or secondary public school. But the younger kids – 2 months old to 5 years old – stay at a daycare within the community.
We partner with 4 of these daycares to bring some Christmas joy! These are non-profit daycares made up of volunteer administrators, teachers, and janitors. They provide free breakfast and lunch to the kids. Every year we get a list of approximately 150 kids from all 4 daycares combined. Sometimes this is their first time in Homestead, others have returned year after year.
At church, everyone “adopts” 1-3 children. We provide them with each child’s name, age, clothes and shoe sizes, and something they are interested in (Frozen, soccer, reading, Spider-Man, etc.) We ask that the gift consists of a complete set of clothes, shoes, and a toy. Several people go above and beyond with bicycles and pretty dresses. All gifts must be wrapped and labeled correctly. Throughout November we collect these gifts every Sunday at church. The first week of December, we inspect all the gifts to ensure that it is complete, appropriate, and labeled.
In addition to the gifts for the kids, we collect staple food items to put together a basket for the families and teachers. We ask for donations of canned goods, rice, beans, flour, oil, salt, sugar, coffee, pasta, sauce. Of course, many also include delicious treats, such as cookies, candy, cereal, crackers, juice boxes, soda, and much more. We collect these items throughout November as well. In the beginning of December, we sort the items to verify they are sealed and within expiration date. Then we package the items in boxes and baskets.
One week before Christmas we deliver the gifts. We separate the presents by school and classroom. A group of 10 to 15 people join to load up approximately 5 SUVs and mini-vans full of gift bags, baskets, and boxes. We drive to each school together. We have a Santa Clause who carries all the gifts in a big bag on his back with the help of his elves (me!). When we enter the classrooms, all the kids glare at us incredibly. Some start to cry, but most of them run to hug Santa. That’s the most beautiful part of the project. Seeing their little faces glow, their eyes widen, and their smiles stretch. I call out their names and they scurry to grab their gift and take a picture on Santa’s lap.
Unfortunately, since we have to go to 4 different schools, we are not able to stay to meet the parents and personally give them the food baskets. Nevertheless, the directors of each school always tell us how grateful the parents are for our project. Often, Americans are the first to give a hand to those in need overseas, but they forget to look at what is going on in our own backyard. Miami-Dade County Homeless Trust have surveyed that, “…3,628 people are experiencing homelessness in Miami-Dade County” (Mozloom). There are several people in need right here in Miami. We do not need to go too far to help someone in need. During this holiday season, we have this concrete act of kindness as a religious community, but this has helped inspire many individuals to continue helping others all year long. As I continue through my last year of college, I want to dedicate more of my time towards my community. Amidst all the stress from finals, this project has always helped me feel good. It helped me stop worrying about my insignificant problems and see what the real struggle is. I have so much to be thankful for and so much to give!
Mozloom, Lisa. “Affordable housing critical to
maintaining downward trend of street homelessness in Miami-Dade County.”
20 February 2019. Miami-Dade County Homeless Trust News Release.
Y. C. Li, W. Klassen, Mary Lamberts, Teresa Olczyk,
and Guodong Liu. “Tomato Production in Miami-Dade County, Florida.”
November 2017. University of Florida IFAS Extension. Document.
Juliana Pereira is an Accounting student at Florida International University, also enrolled in the Honors College. She was born and raised in Miami, Florida. Daughter of two Brazilian immigrants. Although she’s spent all her 19 years of life in Miami, she knew little about her hometown. Fortunately, she has had the opportunity of exploring Miami with new eyes this semester. Now she’s in love with this city more than ever!
Coconut Grove stretches from Rickenbacker Causeway and South Dixie Highway to North Prospect Drive from north to south and Biscayne Bay and LeJeune Road from east to west. It is south of Brickell and east of Coral Gables, other popular neighborhoods of Miami. It contains a plethora of subdistricts: Center Grove, Northeast Coconut Grove, Southwest Coconut Grove, and West Grove. It is one of Miami’s greenest areas and is filled with lush trees. It is also by the water, making it a known scenic spot. Yet, the neighborhood is constantly improving for its visitors and therefore has a lot of property value.
Before becoming the modern and chic area that is it today, Coconut Grove was once a flourishing tropical wilderness. The Native American tribes of the Tequesta lived along the coast of Biscayne Bay. Upon European settlement, the Tequesta were enslaved and eventually wiped out. In the mid-1800s, the Homestead Act and the idea of free land enticed settlers to South Florida. The first wave of immigrants arrived in 1870 from the Bahamas. They found jobs at the Peacock Inn, formerly the Bay View House, in Coconut Grove. Charles and Isabella Peacock established the first South Florida Hotel in 1882. As the hotel’s clientele grew, so did the inflow of work-seeking Bahamians in Coconut Grove. The Joseph Frow homestead became a settlement for Bahamians that worked at the Peacock Inn and nearby white settlers’ homes. West Coconut Grove, where these settlements were located, was nicknamed Colored Town. While East Coconut Grove was called White Town. However, in 1889 the Plymouth Congregational Church had the first public school in the county which eventually made it possible for it to be the first church where blacks and whites would attend together. Henry Flagler’s railroad system changed the demographics drastically because suddenly hundreds of settlers were going to the area and this led to quick development. America entering World War I in 1917 is what brought about a new era full of aviators and booming real estate. In 1919, Coconut Grove incorporated as a town and no longer contained the “a” in its name. In 1954, Coconut Grove became a center for politics. Throughout the decades since being established in the 1800s, the Coconut Grove has grown while remaining a unique area.
The dichotomy created before the 1900s with the segregation of Colored Town and White Town still persists today. The majority of the population of Coconut Grove earns over $36,000 per year, with most of that majority earning between $60k and $191k. The area is divided racially, with the northern area of the neighborhood being 70-75% white, while the southernmost area is 50-60% white and the midwestern area is less than 20% white.
Coconut Grove is home to an array of cultural landmarks. Among these are the Boswell Mourot Fine Art, which features local and international art for collectors’ purchase. Midori Gallery focuses on East Asian art and culture, housing artifacts and all other types of visual art. The Coconut Grove Arts Festival Gallery is a gallery that presents contemporary art all related to South Florida and its culture.
There are also important historical landmarks, such as Vizcaya Museums and Gardens, whose owner, John Deering, had it built in the early 1920s. There is even a bit of feminist history in the Woman’s Club of Coconut Grove, started by Fiona McFarlane in 1891. She began the institution to create camaraderie among the women in the area, and it still stands for events and as a gathering space for women in the city today. The Barnacle Historic State Park is the site of Ralph Middleton Munroe’s house. He was a pioneer and civic activist, and the house and park highlight Florida’s history and the environment from 1891. An important shopping spot is CocoWalk, a high-end outdoor mall at the center of the neighborhood that attracts shoppers and tourists. It has several boutique clothing stores, restaurants and bars, and even a movie theater.
David Kennedy Park: Known for its variety of greenery and vistas, this park spans across 20 acres. The park serves as a recreational spot to grove residents, allowing them to exercise or relax as they surround themselves by coastal mangroves, the scenery of the waterfront, and enough space to have a clear view of the sunrise. The park even caters to pets, having sections reserved for the purpose of being dog parks.
Peacock Park: Providing 9.4 acres for its visitors to explore, Peacock Park, welcomes everyone. Recreational activities at the park are found outdoors as well as indoors for those that prefer a less heated experience. Visitors can also spend time on the boardwalk and take in the scenery of Biscayne Bay. Despite all of its appealing features, Peacock Park is famously known for hosting the annual Coconut Grove Arts Festival that takes place every February.
Barnacle Historic State Park: The Barnacle was built in 1891 and for the most part still appears nowadays as it did back in the day. This is Ralph Munroe’s Biscayne Bay home, a pioneer from Coconut Grove. This is an area of preservation and has been left in its natural state with many large, old trees. It is a reminder of simplicity and visitors can tour the area, picnic, walk their dogs, or view the sailboats as they pass by.
Alice C. Wainwright Park: Wainwright Park is most famously known for being one of Coconut Grove’s unique coastal parks. Many of its visitors get to gaze upon the limestone outcrop of the Miami Rock Ridge. However, there exists a higher elevated part of the park, known as the Brickell Hammock. This area of forestry is populated by tropical hardwood that once stretched from the Miami River to the North Grove. Unfortunately, due to a reduction in the forestry, visitors are unable to visit this portion of the park.
Parking lots & Valet: Coconut Grove has 13 public parking lots and garages. It costs $5 to park up to 2 hours and $10 for any more than 2 hours. These locations are open every day from 10 AM to 10 PM. Some hours may vary, please check the Coconut Grove Transportation website any people drive to Coconut Grove, park at a garage and then walk on foot, ride a bike or scooter. Generally, restaurants offer valet parking for their clients. But now Coconut Grove has established a Centralized Valet pilot system. There are 4 stations in which cars may be dropped off and picked up, regardless of what establishments you are visiting. The best part is that the rates are the same as the self-park lots and garages.
FreeBee: This is a free transportation service that is growing throughout South Florida. Supporting South Florida’s Climate Action Plan, FreeBee’s vehicles are electrically powered. Running on clean energy helps reduce carbon emissions. To request a ride, users need to download the free app. While on the ride, FreeBee advertises national and local businesses, deals, and discounts around town.
Miami Trolley: The City of Miami provides a public trolley service that runs through Coconut Groove The trolley stopping at Grand Ave, South Bayshore Drive, Grove Metrorail Stations, and Peacock Park and Kennedy Park approximately every 15 to 30 minutes. This free and reliable service gives both residents and visitors the opportunity to conveniently travel throughout the city.
Metrorail: Metrorail is a system of tracks that provides transportation throughout many neighborhoods in Miami, such as Kendall, Coral Gables, downtown Miami, and, of course, Coconut Grove. To ride it, a transit pass is needed. While not a free service, discounts are available for Miami-Dade County employees, students, veterans, senior citizens, etc. To get to Coconut Grove, you can take the Metrorail Orange Line which will take you to its stations. There is a station close to SW 27th Avenue which is just a walk away from the heart of the Grove.
Bahamians started opening up businesses in West Coconut Grove on Charles Avenue, many ran at-home businesses. The more the population grew, the more businesses came to be. There were even cordial relations between blacks and whites. This allowed Ebenezer Woodbury Franklin Stirrup, Sr. to become the most successful black businessman in Coconut Grove, which was not an easy feat for blacks in the 1900s. Nowadays, Coconut Grove is continuing to grow and is solidifying itself as a progressive neighborhood. It is an established business district with a diverse community – it is not just the stereotypical business firms seen here, but designers and web developers as well. Cocowalk is an example of construction going underway to better the community. It is the perfect destination for residents and tourists alike to give their business. It is an attraction that is home to many retail stores such as the Gap. Because of the renovations, it is going under, it will allow for new local businesses to come into the scene which would be beneficial from an economic standpoint. In particular, Optimum in the Grove provinces Class A office spaces as well as a restaurant that makes tenants have even better work experience.
The neighborhood’s tropical atmosphere draws people in to dine amongst the oak trees. Whether it be in a sidewalk cafe for brunch or rooftop patio for dinner, the neighborhood has quite a reputation for being a great place for people to get together to eat. There is a large variety in the types of cuisine offered, from French to Latin. Personally, I found the Greenstreet Cafe Lounge Restaurant to be the perfect brunch spot and its food leans American-style which the locals enjoy. America’s favorite meal of the day is breakfast and popular items for that time include their french toast or omelets. I recommend their caramelized banana pancakes for a twist on the common breakfast item that elevates the menu and makes it stand out. For the “best burgers in Miami,” one can go to LoKal whose German name translates to restaurant and meeting place. The burgers have ingredients that are sustainable and locally sourced. If you what you search is a taste of Asia in your backyard, Akashi Japanese Restaurant is quiet and provides excellent sushi. The restaurant’s dark lighting adds to the mood and experience. Miami is a cultural hub and is known for its large Latin community. Costa Med is Venezuelan owned and takes inspiration from European, Mediterranean, and South American styles. Whether it be their steak tartare or lobster ravioli, their food is very enjoyable. However, it is never just about the food in Coconut Grove. The locations themselves are picturesque and guarantee a special time.
Coconut Grove is a neighborhood rich with history and culture. The area has evolved with the times, ensuring that it is accessible to tourists and residents alike by promoting public transportation and green alternatives to driving. Even so, Coconut Grove maintains its historic architecture and landscape. It is full of green spaces and waterfront areas that give the Grove a natural, cozy atmosphere. It also has a busy and diverse cultural life: restaurants are varied, with a selection of international food in picturesque areas, which drives demand from the local population and tourists. Many of these are higher-end boutique restaurants. Similarly, there are plenty of small shopping stores placed among larger chain stores, increasing the variety and appeal for shoppers. As the neighborhood continues to grow and gain attention, it will likely get more expensive both for residents to live and for tourists to eat, shop and eat. Overall, Coconut Grove caters to the interest of any visitor. A day in the Grove can include brunch at a trendy restaurant, a shaded walk-in Peacock Park, an educational experience at one of the several museums, lunch at an Asian or Latin American restaurant, a tour through one of the historic homes and buildings, and a movie at the theater in CocoWalk. It is slightly hidden, so many Miami residents have never happened to run into it, but it is well worth a visit, both for someone visiting Florida and someone who has lived in Miami their whole life.
Hi! I’m Juliana Pereira. I am an accountant-to-be from Florida International University’s College of Business. My passion is arts & crafts and event planning. I am the brain, heart, and hands behind Juliana’s Papercrafts & Planning. When I am not drowning in homework, I am making party decorations, invitations, gifts, shirts, you name it! (Shameless advertisement: follow me on instagram @julianaspapercrafts) Daughter of Brazilian immigrants. Born and raised in Miami — #305tilidie except when there’s a hurricane. In the past 19 years I have “lived” in Miami, but truthfully I haven’t lived in Miami. Never used public transportation (unless Uber counts), never heard of 90% of the towns Professor Bailly has mentioned, never kayaked in these waters, never visited Vizcaya, and who the heck is Mr. Deering? I am beyond thrilled to burst out of this bubble and explore the true essence of Miami.
Miami as Text: Metro Day
The City That Adopts and Adapts Miami, home to a plethora of races and cultures. A big momma who embraces every child looking for a place to flourish. The city of nearly three million smiles, each unique with a fascinating story. Upon entering James Deering’s famous home, we are greeted with a hovering statue of Dionysus; the god of wine, ecstasy, and fertility. The essence of Miami descended from this symbol. Miami is known for its luxury, beaches, entertainment, art, greenery, and weather. During our Metro Day trip, we encountered three different cultures that have greatly impacted our city. As part of The MetroRail Underline beautification project, a classic Cuban symbol was cleverly incorporated. Much like Cuban immigrants that have shaped this city, domino columns serve as the base holding up the metro rail. At Vizcaya we see the arrival of wealthy white Europeans who started civilization off the waters of Biscayne. The architecture is jaw-dropping fascinating. Unfortunately, with much beauty came the horror of enslavement. Africans and Bahamians were brought overseas to work the land and at white homes. Nevertheless, the African American community persevered, and today we see their legacies at the lively community of Historic Overtown. Miami isn’t Miami without the history and culture adoption from these three groups of people. Since the 18th century, Miami has continually improved its architecture and infrastructure. While trying to preserve its history, Miami has made some interesting adaptations. Designers and engineers have quite literally “worked around” significant buildings. At Vizcaya, the modern traffic light pole fit unbelievably perfectly through the antique street light fixture. Similarly, in Overtown, the Palmetto highway basically grazes by the walls of the Historic Baptist Church. Many political factors drove these intriguing decisions, but that is a very complicated topic for another day. Nevertheless, Miami and its people know how to manage change without forgetting our roots.
Downtown as Text
One Building, One Story Today I went back to 1836. My steps retracing those of leaders, slaves, founders. Our people. Us. This room, a place to hide, a place to sleep, a place to meet, a place to make decisions. Fort Dallas was built to shelter army troops during the Seminole Wars. The Tequesta has already been disseminated, now the Seminoles were being killed and displaced. But with great sorrow came the birth of a thriving city. The area along the Miami River prospered. The land was fertile, the perfect incentive for populating plantations. Fort Dallas sheltered over 100 slaves within its strong walls. I stood there in shock, starting to feel claustrophobic. Unable to imagine how all those slaves managed to accommodate. Once again, the army took over the fort during the Third and final Seminole War. As the village of Miami grew, Fort Dallas became headquarters to Union groups, a post office, a gambling establishment, and served as the first courthouse of Dade County. The Daughters of the American Revolutions held their meetings at Fort Dallas. Rules and decisions for Miami were made in there. The mother of Miami, Julia Tuttle purchased the property in 1891. Upon her death, her son ran a gambling club in Fort Dallas. The historic building was relocated when the land was bought for an apartment building project. Fortunately, there is sits at Lummus Park for all to see. The building that was here through it all. Leaders and decision makers brushed by those very walls I touched. Slaves looked up at the same ceiling I looked at. Soldiers rushed through the same doors I passed through. One building, many purposes, many people, one story.
Deering as Text
My first time at the Deering Estate, I got an exclusive tour of the grounds! Walking through the archealogical sites of the Deering Estate felt like time traveling back all 10,000 years of history that lay beneath our feet. There are 120 acres of preserved pine rocklands in the Deering Estate. This area is one of the few that remain in Florida. The beautiful terrain flourishes with undiscovered species of animals and plants. As we stopped to wait for the class to catch up, I stared at the beautiful landscape before me. It seemed to be straight out of a movie or painting. The pine trees stood tall and proud overlooking our footsteps, as they did of the Paleo-Indians, Tequestas, Seminoles, and all who followed after.
After hiking without any notion of direction and distance, we found home. The Cutler Fossil Site, home to hundreds of discovered fossils. These fossils belong to animals all the way back in the Paleo Era — direwolves and mammoths, also human fossils from those who inhabited the cave. We could see their “bunkbeds” embedded in the walls of the hole. We were home! The foundation of Miami was all inside that very hole in the ground. The future of this beautiful city literally stood inside the past. I felt an energy while holding those artifacts in my bare hands. It was a privilege and it seemed to pass on to me a responsibility. The knowledge, memory, and respect towards our story will carry on through my peers, me, and those who we share it with.
Chicken Key as Text
An absolutely incredible day at Chicken Key! Our class took canoes from the Deering Estate 1 mile to the small island. After 45 minutes of rowing through crystal clear waters (with no cool creatures in sight unfortunately) my partner Nicole Patrick and I arrived. At first glance all we saw were the beautiful mangroves which created what seemed to be a floating island. But as we got closer we noticed unusual spots colors wrapped around the roots.
Chicken Key isn’t visited often, but loads of trash washes up with the current. Boxes, bottles, flip-flops, glasses, hats, buckets, trays, plastic bags, straws, the list goes on and on. Some seemed to have made landfall recently, others were stuck in the ground for way too long. All the cute little hermit crabs struggled to move along the island with so many pesky obstacles in their way. Nicole and I started collecting trash along the coast while circling around in the canoe. Our first find of the day was a huge cardboard box that sat over the roots of the mangroves. We got several ropes that were tangled on the branches. If I had a dollar for every bottle cap I collected, I would probably be able to get another sub for lunch.
When I thought I had seen enough and done my good deed of the day, Nicole incentivised me to keep going. I am so glad I did! We followed Jose Ernesto further and further along the coast. The more we walked, the bigger items he would find. Nicole and I used a larger wooden plank to transport all the trash back into the canoe. There was so much trash everywhere. It is nearly impossible to get it all, but we truly tried our best and cleared up the area pretty well. After filling up the canoe completely, we headed back.
Earlier in the morning I could not fathom the amount of trash that there could be in the small island, much less how much I would be collecting. It was a life-changing experience. My mind opened up. I witnessed first hand the pollution in our oceans. After a couple hours of doing the grunt work, I genuinely appreciate all the work that people have been putting in for years to clean up our beaches. It was my first cleanup, but definitely will not be my last!
Wynwood as Text
Miami is best known for it’s beautiful beaches and lively night-life. For such a diverse city, we lack interest in culture. Fortunately, we have an on-growing art hub in the heart of Miami. Wynwood was an abandoned industrial area that has been developed over the last two decades. Artists established their studios, collectors put their collections on display, chefs opened up shops, art and culture flourished.
This class we visited two incredible collectors’ gallaries: The Margulies Collection and The De la Cruz collection. Not many people know these places exist, especially Miamians. Both collections vast with the works of renowned artists, such as Felix Gonzalez-Torres. At The De la Cruz Collection we saw several of his works. My favorite being the candy pile piece. The piece represented his late father; 175 pounds of his favorite candy — mints. The mints are to be taken and consumed by those who see it. When I picked up a mint I felt as if I was learning a lesson from his father. Carrying on the thought of a person I never met, but that I could compare to my own father.
On our very special tours with the Martin Marguelis and Daniel Clapp at De la Cruz I was most intrigued by their enthusiasm. Both collections are open to the public, with a small to no cost admission fee. They want to share these art pieces that are important to our history and our sense of culture. It was an honor to hear first hand from the collectors themselves about their pride, passion, and art-collecting journey.
HistoryMiami as Text
Where our skyscrapers stand today, 12,000 years ago elephants roamed this flat terrain. Far before the thought of Miami was ever conceived, palm trees flourished, and the underdog never went too far. Similarly, today palm trees are well-known symbols of Miami, and the underdog still never goes too far.
Throughout an exquisite tour at History Miami Museum, our guide and History Miami Educator Maria Moreno, thoughtfully pointed out how often our history is told while excluding crucial information about Native Americans and African Americans. The museum’s main exhibits were installed in the 1980s, when interest in these “forgotten” stories was pretty much zero to none. Thankfully, more and more historians are being able to uncover and share the truth about our past. Recently, the names of 12 slaves who built the Flagler Railroad were discovered! Sure, Henry Flagler had the idea and the funds, but those 12 men shed sweat and blood to turn the network into reality. They are the true Pioneers of Miami.
Much like the Native Americans that eventually formed civilizations and tamed the beasts that ruled these lands, all those who deserve recognition for their part in the foundation of Miami are slowly and steadily making their way into history museums and books where they righteously belong; breaking the white (European) glorification. History Miami Museum has one small frame, right next to the bathroom may I add, on African American Leaders who shaped Miami. Most of the information about these leaders were iterated by Maria, as she determinedly took on the responsibility to make the public aware of such excluded information.
It is time for us to look past what our 8th grade textbooks say. Dive in deeper than the white-washed version of our history and seek the truth. It’s time to pay attention and recognize everyone that is doing something for this city, regardless of race, gender, social status, immigratory status. We cannot let any story be buried and forgotten. It may be difficult to uncover the past, but we can most definitely take care of our future.
Miami Art as Text
This was my first experience at an art fair. As a business student, I was excited to learn about this popular market. As a creator, I was eager for inspiration.
There is no formula to determine the value of art. Who is to say what is good or not? The art market is unbelievably unregulated. Heck, a banana duct-taped to the wall sold for $120,000 twice. It is both amazing and ridiculous. Art is so abstract and preception-sensitive that it is impossible to create rules and guidelines for pricing pieces. As always, there’s the other hand. Just because you are able to charge a gazillion dollars for a paint blotch on a piece of paper do not mean you should. The market is heartless and cold. One wrong move and it is completely over. Once you are all the way up, there’s only one way to go.
Upon entering the ginormous UNTITLED, ART tent I was pleased with the simplicity of the layout. An open concept with clean white walls, which allowed for the artwork to pop. All the vendors looking sharp, and sharply looking at each person that walks in to their booth. Who has the intent and potential to buy? The good vendors know how to make the most money. While great vendors know how to increase awareness. Although the main goal is to sell as many pieces for the best price possible, as Jessie J once said, “It’s not about the money, money, money.” Artists create with a purpose. Whether it is to convey a feeling or share a message, that is the ultimate objective. Several vendors took some time to talk to us (non-potential-customers) about the artworks and projects at their booths. To my luck, Gallery 1957 from Accra, Ghana had just what I needed: inspiration.
Joana Choumali, photographer and mixed media artist, has admirable persistence and determination. While bedridden and physically unable to go photographing as she did, Joana needed to keep busy. She taught herself how to sew so that she could continue making art. Gallery 1957 brought her embroidered photographs nearly 9,000 kilometers. The price of her work was not displayed, but I am sure that Joana would appreciate the 40 students who admired her work and now know her story. I learned that no matter the obstacle, when we have determination to do something, we just have to adapt until we succeed.
South Beach as Text
In my 19 years of life here in Miami, I went to South Beach a handful of times with my family for some ice cream during the day. I was always told South Beach is not a family friendly setting. Taken over by bars, clubs, luxury hotels, South Beach became the destination for tourists and locals looking for that Miami fun! Unfortunately, all this exuberance has drastically masked the real South Beach. The South Beach that was once endless acres of coconut, mango, banana, alligator pears (aka avocados) plantations. Where the Jewish found a home to grow their families, faith, and businesses. The place that went through new architecture designs like a girl changes clothes.
From the outside, one cannot fathom the immersive experience they are about to walk in to. Relying on word of mouth, The Jewish Museum of Florida in South Beach is not advertised much. With both permanent and temporary installations, the museum is thriving with Jewish history and art. We had the great pleasure to have Volunteer Tour Guide Mark Gordon share with us the history of how South Beach became the third largest Jewish settlement in the nation. The Jewish Museum was an amazing visit! I never knew about it nor expected to learn so much there. I wish more locals were aware of this place and experience. Knowing about the people who built our home-city from the bottom up instills a new kind of respect for this land and a different perception of our community.
The Art Deco District, in plain and simple words: beautiful. One hundred years later, we have several historical buildings standing strong and functional. Thanks to Barbara Baer Capitman who established the Miami Design Preservation League in 1976. Her effort prevented Miami Beach’s history and charming character from being completely wiped out by big luxury estate firms. Breakwaters, zigarettes, port holes, neon, eyebrows, flat roofs, faux balconies, — all still here. Still today, the City of Miami Beach officials are rigorous on property regulations. Historical buildings are actively functioning as hotels, restaurants, bars, stores. Owners may renovate the buildings, but they must maintain the original facade design. One interesting rule is that the original signage of the building must remain, even though the current business within may have a different name. Such as, The Hotel building that has a very impressive TIFFANY sign. Several people have a hard time finding The Hotel when looking for it’s exceptionally discrete sign. Nonetheless, South Beach would be a sea of plain condos and towering resorts hadn’t these measures been taken.
There is so much more to South Beach than partying and fine dining. There is sweat and tears of those who could only dream of this extraordinary city back in the early 20th century. Today people walk those streets without a clue of how that island is still afloat. Miami, your story needs to be told.
Deering as Text
Prior to this class, I had never heard of The Deering Estate, despite being born and raised in Miami. It is upsetting that local history is not embedded in our primary and secondary educational curriculum. Now at 20 years old in college is when I am learning about and exploring my hometown. The Deering Estate itself is a jackpot of Miami history, culture, fauna and flora. I wish I had known about it earlier, nonetheless I was able to appreciate and understand this experience better now as a knowledge-seeking mature adult.
The Deering Estate is very in touch with our community. The estate is open to public visitation. They provide several guided tours, classes, programs and events. The Deering Estate is not only focused on science and history, they are huge supporters of the arts. From poetry readings, to festivals, to even an artist-in-residence program, The Deering Estate is always providing artists opportunities to share their work. The estate has two sites with spectacular views that are open to the public for free: The People’s Dock and Deering Point. Now I know where to go spend a beautiful afternoon with my family!
Luckily for me, Miami in Miami had the opportunity to hike through The Deering Estate Nature Preserve. There is no better way to explore the area than with the estate director herself, Jennifer Tisthammer. Of the sites we visited the Tequesta Midden and the Burial Mound were the most impactful. The Tequesta were the natives that lived here way before Miami was even a thought. It is unfortunate that much of their story has been lost throughout the years. Nevertheless, The Deering Estate has dedicated to preserving these ancient sites and piecing together history based on their archeological findings.
Lotus as Text
The Lotus House is a non-profit homeless shelter housing over 250 women and children in the heart of Miami. The foundation does not only provide physical shelter for those in need, but also a safe and loving home to those in need. Services available to the tenants include, but are not limited to, medical care, counseling, artistic activities, educational programs for both children and women. The Lotus House is dedicated to supporting families regain their balance so that they may continue their walk of life.
The Miami in Miami class had the pleasure of spending a day volunteering at the shelter. We were tasked with cleaning rooms and common areas, helping meal prep, and organizing donations. At first my team and I cleared the docking station that was overcrowded with former tenants’ belongings. We then sanitized the area. By doing so, the shelter was able to receive and store incoming shipments of readiness supplies for the COVID-19 pandemic that was on the way. I then helped organize new donations in the children’s toys closet. The shelter is committed to providing a pleasurable life to these families; therefore, they give gifts to celebrate birthdays, holidays, milestones, and achievements. My team and I also sanitized the family room and common area on every floor of the building. We met a few tenants while we navigated, all of whom were appreciative of our service.
During lunchtime, we ate in the cafeteria among the tenants. They all had bright faces and were extremely thankful for our help. It is very gratifying to know that a simple task as cleaning is, can go a long way. It means a lot to them that we were there, that we care. Whether directly or indirectly, we helped them through another day.
Quarantine as Text
I remember back in January seeing endless memes about the “beer virus” in China, and bursting out in laughter. Now in April, I still laugh, but it’s not the same. My heart is heavy, my mind is worried, and my throat is sore. What we thought was going to be Winter Break 2.0 became a nightmare.
Two days after my birthday, everything started shutting down. Schools transitioned into remote learning. My job closed office, and began figuring out how everyone could work from home. My dad — a flight attendant — was called to fly the last international flight out to Brasil, returning to Miami with zero passengers. My mom’s catering orders were being cancelled. My sister couldn’t really work front desk of a trampoline park via Zoom.
Not even a day into this so-called quarantine… cough attacks, fevers, and fatigue. My dad and my sister go to Baptist Hospital to test for the beer virus. Three days later, my mom goes to Baptist Hospital to test for the corona virus. Four days after that, both my parents are rushed to Baptist Hospital Emergency Room to be treated for the COVID-19 virus. Except there’s no treatment, there’s no vaccine, there’s no study, there’s nothing but hope and faith. The next ten days were the scariest of my life, but also the most important.
My sister and I have always been close, but those days brought us closer. We would eat together, clean together, cry together, pray together, everything always together. In our regular routine, our schedules did not give us the availability for these bonding moments. Our entire family needed this time to communicate, reflect, and be in sync. Once our parents came back home, there was a role reversal, they depended on us to take care of them. It was an emotional experience and a life lesson.
Our COVID-19 journey was no joke. It is still not over. We need to get retested until we have two negative results. This virus is still not tamed, it is unpredictable. We are living day by day, following the news, hoping that soon this will all be over.