España 2020 Ineffable Miami: Key Biscayne by Lorena Bravo


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Lorena Bravo is a junior at the Honors College at Florida International University double majoring in Psychology and Interdisciplinary Studies, as well as minoring in Biology while following a pre-med track. She hopes to graduate in the Fall of 2020 and then apply for medical school to become a pediatrician. Although not born in Miami, she has lived in the city nearly all of her life and hopes to learn more about her hometown via this research project.


Picture retrieved from Google Maps

Key Biscayne is a city island in Miami-Dade County, Florida, United States. It is located south of the famous Miami Beach and is connected to Miami via a road known as the Rickenbacker Causeway. Although being an island, it is actually quite populated and surrounded by two parks: Crandon Park being north and the Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park being south of it.

As can be seen from the map above, the island is elongated from the North to South direction. It is only about 5 miles long with a width of about 2 miles. And the Atlantic Ocean rests on one side and Biscayne Bay on the other, with the island having only an elevation of less than 5 feet above sea level; a risk that everyday proves to be fatal for the village of Key Biscayne in the near future (“Key Biscayne”).


Picture in the public domain

It is believed that the island first formed at around 2000 BCE once the sea level stopped increasing and the sand was eventually eroded towards the coast. The Tequestas are the first believed civilization to inhabit the island based on previous artifacts found on the land. The well-known Juan Ponce de Leon actually traveled this island back in the early 1500’s, as well as other Spanish Europeans. As European colonization continued and America was born, Florida became a U.S. territory and with that, more and more civilization started drifting south.

In fact, many Seminoles and runaway slaves during the 1800’s would reach Key Biscayne to get on a boat and escape to the Bahamas. In other words, Key Biscayne was one step closer towards obtaining a safe haven for these individuals. During this time the iconic Cape Florida lighthouse was also built on the most southern point of the island, serving as a source of light in many more ways than one. Unfortunately, this lighthouse was burnt years later, along with the plants and any other progress for habituation that had been made by the lighthouse keeper and his family. Furthermore, the island continued to see tragedy with the establishment of a military fort for the efforts to drive off the Seminoles, as well as other wars that occurred later on like the Civil War and the Spanish-American War.

Things picked back up again with coconut plantations and other tropical fruits being planted on the island. The Key Biscayne property was passed from hand to hand, and eventually Matheson and Deering had temporary ownership in the 1900’s, and both individuals had great ideas and plans for the future of Key Biscayne like real estate and tropical resorts but a lot of these plans did not come to be realized. Instead the northern part of the island was donated to be used as a park, which came to be known as Crandon Park. And the plans for the Causeway came to be about, as well as the establishment of homes in the 1950’s. Also within a few years, a Post Office was situated and a Community Church and Elementary School opened for the public. The Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park became official nearly a decade later after much turmoil between Dade County, Florida State and other individuals involved. The lighthouse was functioning again in the later 1970’s as well. A hotel known as the Key Biscayne Hotel and Villas was built and it was very well known, even President Richard Nixon stayed there.

Due to the island’s elevation, it is always bound to be hit hard by any incoming storm or hurricane. This was seen after Hurricane Andrew in the 1990’s, a natural event that actually resulted in a good outcome due to the fact that the natural wildlife of the land was able to be restored after the hurricane. Key Biscayne was officially incorporated as one of the cities of Miami-Dade County in the year of 1991.


Based on the 2010 census, the total population in Key Biscayne was 12,344; a 17.5% increase in individuals from 2000 to 2010. About 96.2% of the population was Caucasian, with 36.5% being Non-Hispanic Caucasian. Nonetheless, 61.6% of the population identified as Hispanic. And about 69.6% of the population said that a language other than English was spoken at home between 2014-2018.

Based on the 2000 census, nearly 30% of the population was between ages 25 and 44, 15% of the population was 65 years or older, and about 24% of the population was under the age of 18. Also, according to the U.S. Census website, the median household income for 2018 was about $133, 958. Over 98% of individuals over 25 years of age were high school graduates and over 73% of individuals over 25 years of age had a Bachelor’s degree or higher. The population per square mile was reported to be 10,068.5 as of 2010 (“U.S. Census Bureau QuickFacts: Key Biscayne Village, Florida”).

Interview with Lilian Martinez (a Key Biscayne resident)

Q: Hello Lilian, thank you for agreeing to answer a couple of questions. How long have you lived in Key Biscayne?

A: I have lived in Key Biscayne with my family for almost ten years now.

Q: What is your favorite part about living in Key Biscayne?

A: My favorite part has got to be that I am so close to the beach. I love being able to randomly decide to go one day and be there in just a few minutes.

Q: What is your least favorite part about living here?

A: My least favorite part is when there are a lot of tourists, which is really the norm nowadays. But basically I’ve seen a lot of incidents where these tourists don’t respect our beaches and our community overall. Not to mention the traffic!

Q: What activity would you recommend one do when visiting?

A: Rent out a bicycle and use it to ride along the streets in the Village and go the beach if you can. You have no idea how much you’re missing out on when you’re in the car!


The Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park

Collage and pictures by Lorena Bravo (CC by 4.0) 

The Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park is open from 8 A.M. to sundown every day of the year. There is an $8 per vehicle fee for entrance into the park or $2 fee if entering the park via a bicycle. The park has a path that is about 1.5 miles long where bicyclers can ride, and bicycle rentals are available. Other activities that can be experienced include boat camping, fishing, hiking, paddling and of course, swimming (“Experiences & Amenities.”)

However, my most favorite activity would be the tour of the lighthouse. The tours are offered Thursday through Monday at 10 A.M. and 1 P.M., and only individuals over 42 inches tall are able to climb the stairs all the way to the top of the lighthouse. Once on top, the view is magnificent and definitely worth the long climb via the spiral staircases. And afterwards you can cool down by taking a swim in the refreshing waters of the Atlantic Ocean!

Furthermore, the park has several accessible amenities for its visitors like wheelchairs, picnic pavilions and benches, grills, etc.

The Marjory Stoneman Douglas Biscayne Nature Center

Pictures from and retrieved from Marjory Stoneman Douglas Biscayne Nature Center Website

The Marjory Stoneman Douglas Biscayne Nature Center is part of Crandon Park, which is in the north area of Key Biscayne. It is a non-profit facility that focuses on studying our land’s natural resources to educate the community and encourage the protection of those natural resources. The facility includes an exhibition, audio/visual presentation and lab classrooms. And of course, the outside classroom (mother nature’s gift) which is taken care of by the staff and open to visitors as well.

Fortunately, the facility focuses on educating the community, most importantly our future young citizens. The center hosts multiple fieldtrips from local schools throughout the year and the students can do several activities in the center that they can learn from and gain unique experiences. For instance, they can do a “Seagrass Adventure”, which involves the students using a net to catch the creatures of the seagrass to observe them and then release them back into their homes. In fact, I was one of those students not too long ago when my elementary school took a fieldtrip to the center. The facility also has other informational events like “Science Saturday” and “Hammock Hiking”.

Crandon Park

Picture from and retrieved from Miami-Dade County Website

Crandon Park, as mentioned before, is located in the north area of Key Biscayne. It includes many recreational opportunities for everyone including golf and tennis facilities, as well as beaches and a marina. Located in the park is the “Bear Cut Preserve”, which gives its visitors an opportunity to observe the wilderness that is home to S. Florida. In addition, the beach is almost two miles long and has a sandbar that makes it safer for swimmers.

Activities offered include kayaking, paddle boarding, snorkeling, windsurfacing, etc. Many programs are also offered by the Parks and Recreation Department such as “EcoAdventures”, which involves a seat turtle awareness program and biking and hiking.


Picture from and obtained from the Key Biscayne official website / Picture of Village Green Park

Undoubtedly, Key Biscayne is filled with unique parks that are open to not only the local community but also other visitors that come to this tiny island just to see the parks. There are various ecosystems throughout the parks and beaches: including dunes, mangroves, coastal hammocks, and seagrass beds.

The city has 5 public parks: Village Green, Lake Park, East Enid Linear Park, Beach Park and Calusa Park. Village Green includes a jogging course, an interactive splash fountain and many other amenities. Lake Park is smaller but has a lake and pavilion. East Enid Linear Park connects to Beach Park via a walkway. Calusa Park is located at the end of Crandon Park and is the biggest out of these 5. It has multiple tennis courts that are open to the public, it also has a recreational building and playing fields for the Village community.

In addition, is the state park as mentioned before, the Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park. As well as the County park known as Crandon Park, which was also described before in the landmarks section.


Key Biscayne has a free ride service that not many cities have today. It is known as “Freebee on the Key” and it was first initiated in the year 2016. It is used via the “Freebee” app which is available on both Apple and Android devices. From Sunday-Thursday it is available for use from 8 A.M.-8. P.M. and from Friday-Saturday it is available from 8 A.M.- 10 P.M., and the services are available basically every 20-30 minutes. There is also a loop route that the service follows and below is the map with the details of the route, as well as the web browser for tracking.

Picture from and obtained from the Key Biscayne official website

The Metrobus route according to the city of Key Biscayne website is as follows: “Bus #102 (Route B)….Government Center Metrorail Station, Downtown (Miami) Bus Terminal, Main Library, Historical Museum of South Florida, Miami Art Museum, Brickell Metrorail Station, Brickell Business District, Rickenbacker Causeway, Miami Seaquarium, Crandon Park, City of Key Biscayne, Cape Florida State Park.”

Besides using a car to move around the city, walking and bicycling are two other forms of transportation for the locals that are most used. As can be inferred, Key Biscayne is very aware of the effects that cars and other sources of pollution can have on our environment, which is why the city has taken many green initiatives and pushed for its usage amongst the community.


la Despensa

Picture of a weekly specials menu/ Picture obtained from website of La Despensa Restaurant

La Despensa is a Spanish restaurant that serves both homemade and gourmet food, that can also be ordered for to go. Their main dish is Paella, which promises an authentic taste from Spain. The restaurant also offers catering in the form of tapas and wine. The menu features several tapas options and two Spanish desserts amongst other foods to choose from. The restaurant is located on Crandon Boulevard, so it is right at the center of the city and surrounded by several other restaurants.

Artisan Kitchen & Bar

Picture obtained from Artisan Kitchen & Bar Website

The Artisan Kitchen & Bar offers its customers a casual and comfortable place to enjoy food with friends. Its owners are Venezuelans, and the restaurant is also located on Crandon Blvd. and occasionally offers live music. On the menu one can see the Venezuelan influences, from the tequenos to the arepas and to the empanadas. The desserts similarly range from tres leches, caramel flan and caramel bread pudding; all very popular Hispanic desserts.

Clasica Victoria

Picture obtained from Clasica Victoria Website showing a weekly family meal plan

Clasica Victoria is a family business owned by Argentinian Victoria Galindez. It is a bakery and restaurant that serves breakfast and lunch, amongst other food and drink items. The business also includes weekly family meal plans and delivery is included for the locals of course. Victoria has a mouth-watering cake collection with varying flavors, as well as other types of desserts.


Bear Cut Fitness

Picture obtained from Bear Cut Fitness Website

Bear Cut Fitness is a unique gym located in Key Biscayne, specifically on Crandon Blvd. The gym says to be unique due to their small personalized classes and focus on bettering the health of its community. Not only are adult group classes offered but classes for kids and teens are also offered. In other words, this business seems to strive for the health of all members of the Key Biscayne community.  


Picture obtained from UltraBikeX Website

UltraBikeX is a bike shop that also offers repair services for the Key Biscayne community. Since bicycling is so common in this city, this business must be very essential for not only the locals but anyone that visits and wants to explore the city via a bike and is looking to rent them.

The Golden Hog

Picture obtained from The Golden Hog Website

The Golden Hog is like a “neighborhood food market” and it has been offering its services to the Key Biscayne community since 1995. The market has several healthy choices to choose from, as well as not so healthy choices. It is open Monday-Sunday every day starting at 8 A.M. and closing at 9 P.M. except Sunday’s when it closes at 7 P.M.


Although I do not live in Key Biscayne, it is one of my favorite cities to visit within Miami-Dade County. Key Biscayne is undeniably so different from the other cities surrounding it. I love that the city has so many parks and beaches, and perhaps that is one of the reasons for why so much emphasis is placed by this community on protecting nature and its environment. As can be inferred from the research described above, the city is relatively not too big; hence why they’re also called Key Biscayne Village. There are business chains and lots of tourists visit every day, and yet there are so many authentic and small businesses that bring the community together at the same time. Key Biscayne has certainly come a long way compared to how it first started with the Tequesta tribe and then European colonizers.


“Artisan Kitchen & Bar.” Restaurant in Key Biscayne,

Blank, Joan G. Key Biscayne: A History of Miami’s Tropical Island and the Cape Florida Lighthouse. Pineapple Press, 1996.

“Clasica Victoria: Cafe & Patisserie.” Clasicavictoria,

“DAILY MENU – The Golden Hog Best Market Place.” The Golden Hog,

“Experiences & Amenities.” Florida State Parks,

“History of the Island of Key Biscayne.” History of the Island of Key Biscayne – Village of Key Biscayne,

 “Key Biscayne, Florida.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 8 Apr. 2020,,_Florida

“Key Biscayne.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 16 Feb. 2020,

“La Despensa.” La Despensa,

Marjory Stoneman Douglas Biscayne Nature Center, Crandon Park, Key Biscayne Florida – Field Trips,

“Miami: Key Biscayne: Florida.” Bear Cut Fitness, 30 Dec. 2019,

Services, Miami-Dade County Online. “Crandon Park.” Miami,

“” Ultrabikexnet,

“U.S. Census Bureau QuickFacts: Key Biscayne Village, Florida.” Census Bureau QuickFacts,

España Spring 2020 As Texts: Lorena Bravo

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Lorena Bravo is a junior at the Honors College at Florida International University double majoring in Psychology and Interdisciplinary Studies, as well as minoring in Biology while following a pre-med track. She hopes to graduate in the Fall of 2020 and then apply for medical school to become a pediatrician. This upcoming summer she will study abroad in Spain along with her classmates and Professor Bailly. Following are her reflections of the Honors College class Miami Espana, Ida y Vuelta.

Vizcaya as Text

Collage made by Lorena Bravo (CC by 4.0)

“A New Perspective of Vizcaya,” by Lorena Bravo of FIU in Miami’s Vizcaya Museum and Gardens

Before this short trip on a Friday morning, I had only been to Vizcaya once before. I remember that it was a last minute trip about two years ago with friends from high school. I recall being so enchanted by the outside gardens, the pretty walls and the insane amount of detail in every room. I had always heard of Vizcaya as being a beautiful place to go take your Quinceañera pictures or a very aesthetically pleasing location to take pictures for social media. But before this second trip with my classmates and professor, I never could have imagined just how truly rich in culture and stories Vizcaya is.

We had barely walked on site when we stopped by to observe one of the fountains that had Islamic influences with its almost still like yet flowing water. Where if it were just me I probably would have just walked by the worn looking fountain instead of stopping and taking a minute to appreciate one of the many products of cultural appropriation and multiculturalism. And there were many other phenomena like this throughout the museum and gardens. From the carabelas to the Roman/Greek statues to the Spanish moss to the Rococo rooms and to the phrase J’ai Dit at the top of the stairs, I was captivated.

Not only did I want to stay just a little longer in each room, but I also found myself imagining how life used to be here when Vizcaya was first built. How different the lives of James Deering and his friends were compared to the individuals that helped build and maintain this estate so that it could be the iconic structure it is today. For certain I know that visiting Vizcaya and seeing it through a more informed and unbiased perspective has made me even more excited for the awaiting adventures of this class.


Photo by Lorena Bravo (CC by 4.0)

“The MOAD in the Torre de la Libertad,” by Lorena Bravo of FIU in the MOAD Freedom Tower

The iconic Freedom Tower in Downtown Miami has always been one of the many structures that I’ve admired whenever visiting the area. Not only does it stand tall with its unique architectural characteristics-having both Neoclassical and Baroque influences- but it is a strong symbol of hope and new beginnings. This building served as the location for access to freedom for many immigrants back in the 70’s and even today still continues to be a beam of light during the nighttime and even the day with its golden hue.

The MOAD is actually located inside the tower, specifically on the second floor. And one of the main attractions is situated right at the beginning of the tour inside, it being “The New World” mural. This huge painting tells a story and at the center is Ponce de Leon and a Native American Chief. Both individuals seem to be working together as they meet in the middle, just like the New World and the Old World were introduced to each other at this time. Where the mural shows ships going towards the direction of the New World, as well as other symbols like the tropical fruits and the mermaids. And of course at the center is also a poem that depicts Spain’s colonization as the best thing that could have ever happened for the then Tequesta tribe.

This mural was so impressive and not just because of its size and the fact that it was but one of the few artworks in that room filled with so many columns. It’s truly ironic how the artwork shows the Spanish colonization of the Americas as being such a harmonious coming together when it really was not. And yet, this mural paints the start of a “civilized” America, specifically the Miami we know today.

deering estate as text

Photo by JW Bailly CC BY 4.0

“The Deering Estate and the many individuals that have walked it,” by Lorena Bravo of FIU in Miami’s Deering Estate

Many would agree that the Deering Estate was a unique structure when it first started as an inn back in 1899 in what is now known today as part of South Dade. And today it still remains special as one of the only Mediterranean Revival inspired stone houses here in the area. Certainly this estate has had many individuals walk through it, from individuals working in the Railroad business to Charles Deering himself and his friends, and finally, to the individuals that visit this historic site today.

Most notably, however, are the individuals that didn’t get to inhabit this structure but instead walked and lived on the lands for many years where the Deering Estate stands today.  These individuals were the Tequesta, a civilization that is arguably for the most part forgotten. In fact, before this class I too didn’t know much about the civilization that first occupied the city that I call my home. Fortunately, the few remaining proof of the Tequesta (like the shell bit tools and the burial mound) is preserved today and is a large part of the history of the estate. There is also another group of individuals that are often forgotten despite all of their hard work to build this grand estate, and they are the Afro-Bahamian and African-American workers. Without them Charles Deering’s vision of the estate never would have come true and unfortunately these workers had to work under very harsh conditions without really receiving any credit- both in the past and even today.

There is no doubt that the Estate was like a source of light for a growing Miami back in the day, just like undoubtedly the Estate still holds the same amount of life for the community today. A great example being the Artist in Residence Program, as well as the tons of other events that are hosted here. The Deering Estate has many qualities that make it so distinct – from all sorts of standpoints like its architecture, archaeology, unique natural environment and of course, the many memories that it holds.


Photo by JW Bailly CC BY 4.0

“South Beach and its many parts,” by Lorena Bravo of FIU in Miami’s South Beach

Dear South Beach,

You have always been an exciting enigma to me.

Only about 20 minutes away from me on a good day of traffic and yet

the most I have seen of you has been through a car window while on

the way to the beach.

You are undeniably glamorous with your 3 story buildings and pastel


With your Tiffany and Park Central Hotel,

And with your perfectly square like structures.

Some even say that your buildings look like spaceships.

Some even say that your buildings look like refrigerators and

microwaves. I don’t see it.

If only it were more obvious how beneath all of this glamor is a deep

history that shows how you were made. 

You were built on the backs of destruction and all things that are


Built on injustices and segregation that are unfortunately often


If only more people could see past you, 

They would see the insightful Jewish Museum and the history that it


They would see how one day you will no longer exist because of the

inevitable effects of

climate change.

They would see that you are much more than just a tourist attraction

and a pretty beach.

They would see the many parts of you.


Photo by JW Bailly CC BY 4.0 // Photo showing one of the HistoryMiami murals of Paleo-Indians

“HistoryMiami Museum,” by Lorena Bravo of FIU in the HistoryMiami Museum

As promised by the title of the museum, the HistoryMiami gives its viewers a thorough and eye opening depiction of Miami’s history. Where in nearly chronological order visitors can read about, examine artifacts and observe photographs that correspond to the significant moments that helped shape this wonderful city. The museum proudly displays several exhibitions, from” Tropical dreams: a people’s history of S. Florida” to “Miami Circle” to “International Rivalry” and many more.

Most of these exhibitions would even be considered to be controversial because of their brutal truth. For instance, “The Creek Migration” exhibition reminds us of how some of the Creek tribes were forced to leave their homes and find new land in Florida. Unfortunately, these lands were also taken away from them later on once again. Another injustice that the museum highlights is in the exhibition “New Peoples/New Technologies” where there are several photographs of workers during the Second Industrial Revolution. These workers worked tirelessly for years, however, they were not all treated with the same respect that they deserved. Instead after they were used for their labor and votes, some of them had to go back to being the oppressed just because of how they looked.  

The section “The Pioneer Life” also evoked strong feelings because it focused on the first civilian settlers in Miami and the many struggles that they went through just to survive. Often times we don’t give much thought to the difficulties that these settlers must have faced, moving to a new land that they knew absolutely nothing about for a chance at a better life. Perhaps I can most relate to this as an immigrant myself, just like the immigrants in the exhibition “Gateway to the Americas” who risked their lives and left their past behind for an opportunity at a better future.