Spain Spring 2020 as Texts

Thomas Connell

Photo taken by Thomas Connell

Vizcaya as Text

I visited Vizcaya for the first time ever and I was blown away by its beauty and culture. From the entrance gate to the gardens, I was entranced by what Vizcaya had to offer. Upon entering the gates it was like taking a step back in time where you went from the many buildings in Miami to a whole different world. It was wonderous to see the difference between Vizcaya and the surrounding area.

When on the premises you are greeted by a statue of Juan Ponce de Leon, and fountains that lead to the house. The fountains contain Spanish and Islamic influence and it gives you a taste of the culture mix that Vizcaya is. The is elaborate with a central courtyard and beautiful art and décor that is mesmorizing each step you take through the house.

What particularly caught my attention is the gardens next to the house. I found the shrubbery aesthetically pleasing and loved the French inspired symmetric layout of the gardens. I spent hours in the garden wandering from each area to view its design and its vibrancy. Vizcaya truly captures the mix of cultures that Miami is known for and it would be a shame to miss out on the beautiful home known as Vizcaya.

Photo Taken by Thomas Connell
An example of the symmetry and beauty of the Vizcaya Gardens

Italia Spring 2020 As Texts: Victoria Duran

Victoria Duran is a Junior at Florida International University and apart of FIU’s Honors College. She is majoring in Marketing with a certificate in Social Media and E marketing Analytics. She is interested in event planning and hopes to one day work creating campaigns for Production companies such as Warner Bros. or Sony Pictures. She is set to graduate in the the Spring of 2021 and will be traveling with Professor Bailly to Italy during the Summer of 2020.

“ James Deering knew what he wanted” by Victoria Duran of FIU at Vizcaya Museum & Gardens

Photo By: Victoria Duran

I have lived in Miami my whole life, but I had never visited Vizcaya before this day. Before our visit, I had no idea what to expect other than beautiful architecture, which was a given. Vizcaya went far beyond all of my expectations. The property may look as if it was brought from another country and dropped randomly in Miami, but I feel like that perfectly represents much of what Miami is founded on. Many people have come to Miami and have held strongly onto their cultures and traditions and have proudly integrated this into Miami society. James Deering knew what he liked and what he wanted and thus created Vizcaya as we know it now: a gorgeous home that melts together many different cultures.

My class looked specifically at Vizcaya’s Italian influences which were relevant throughout the property. One of the sculptures that most stuck with me was the miniature version of the Boy with thorn or ” The Spinario,” which is a symbol of a known Roman legend of a boy who was so committed to his country he ran with a thorn in his foot to deliver an important message and did not stop as his country was more important than himself. Vizcaya also has a lot of French influences and something that stuck out to me was a stain glass window panel at the top of the stairs with the saying “J’ai dit (I have spoken).” This stuck out to me as it was a subtle detail that held a lot of power from James Deering, especially as it likened him to Christianity’s God.

Overall, I was blown away with everything that I discovered about Vizcaya. I am excited to visit again someday and continue exploring everything the property has to offer.

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.

Gaby Gabino Italia 2020: As Texts

Gaby Gabino is a student at Florida International University where she is a part of the Honors College. She is majoring in Public Relations, Advertising, and Applied Communications and is minoring in Marketing. She is very interested in keeping up to date with trends and the fashion industry. Professionally, Gaby is employed at a boutique in Coral Gables called Aria Rose as the Social Media and Sales Assistant and she is the Electronic Communications Director for Alpha Xi Delta at FIU. She hopes to someday work for the marketing department of a magazine. When she has free time, she loves to create graphics and create content for her travel blog!



Being raised in Miami, Vizcaya is a place that I had heard of frequently and
had visited prior, but I never truly understood its value. This home was
created by James Deering with the idea of placing everything he loved and
admired about Europe into one place. Whether it be the Spanish caravels or
ancient deities such as Bacchus, every aspect of Vizcaya was created or placed in the home with a purpose. Somehow Vizcaya still perfectly reflects what Miami is today.

What I found to be the most interesting part of Vizcaya was the architecture
and how thought out everything was. James Deering did not place anything in that home without a purpose. For example, the arch near the entrance is almost identical to those made in Europe after a war. Deering placed this in his estate simply because he wanted to feel a sense of victory when walking through it. Another example is the painting of the children in the office. Deering placed that in there because he believed that most people have pictures of their children in their offices, therefore he would too. And lastly the strategic placing of benches in the garden. Placed simply so he could spend time with the maidens that would tend the gardens.

Every aspect of Vizcaya was made with an immense amount of attention to
detail, and I believe that is what makes it such a valuable place. It is a
place with such a deeper meaning that most visitors will probably fail to see.


Italia Spring 2020 As Texts: Tanvi Shashidhar

Tanvi Shashidhar is currently a junior at Florida International University and the Honors College, double majoring in International Business and Marketing with a certificate in Import-Export and Supply Chain. She has an interest in the digital media aspects of marketing as well as the more logistical side of business that comes with supply chain management. Tanvi has always enjoyed traveling internationally with her friends/family and getting to know different cultures and their traditions. She is expected to graduate in the Spring of 2021 and is excited to see where this Italy study abroad course will take her. Follow her on this journey by reading her Italia as Texts below.

“A Sneak Peek into Villa Vizcaya: A Hidden Gem of South Florida” by Tanvi Shashidhar of FIU at Vizcaya Museum and Gardens

As someone who lives near the oldest city in the United States, Saint Augustine, I am no stranger to seeing famous historical landmarks in Florida. One thing I was not expecting to see in Miami amidst all nightclubs and beaches was a national historical landmark with a mix of both a European and Mediterranean aesthetic infused as well. Looking a little bit closer you notice the local influence from Miami that is incorporated into the infrastructure as well. For example, the Cuban limestone incorporated into the infrastructure represents a little bit of the cultural influence in Miami. The infamous owner of this estate was none other than James Deering, an industrialist and conservationist, whose goal for the estate was to conserve the landscape as well as the plant and animal life of the area.

Walking into the estate it is amazing to see how luxurious and well maintained the property has been kept no doubt due to the strong foundation that was put in place from the beginning. Each room gave a little bit more insight into James Deering’s life and personality. From the Greek statues to the art on each of the ceilings you can see the different time periods and European influence that Paul Chalfin, a notable artist and interior designer, put together. All in all, Vizcaya is a beautiful place with a fascinating history and should definitely be on the list of must-see’s when visiting Miami.

France 2020 As Texts: Kassandra Sanz

Kassandra Sanz and is a senior at tFlorida International University. She is currently majoring in Biochemistry with a minor in Psychology and hopes to graduate Summer 2020. Kassandra is a proud Panther and keeps herself busy with full time classes, work and on-campus involvements.

“Memories” by Your Kassandra Sanz of FIU at Vizcaya Museum & Gardens

Visit to Vizcaya 01/31/2020

Vizcaya will always hold a special spot in my heart as this is the place where, like many Latinas in and around Miami, I took my Quinceañera photos. Taking this class trip was extra special to me because it was the 6th year anniversary of the day I took my pictures. I went January 31st, 2014, just one day before my 15th birthday and I returned January 31st, 2020 the day before my 21st birthday. Both, in my opinion, monumental birthdays that represent a period of transition.

Being at Vizcaya on that day came at a much needed time. Turning 21 is pretty big and taking the time to learn more about the history of this place allowed me to reflect on my personal history and how far I had come from the young lady I was becoming at 15 to the young women that I am becoming now.  That is why I chose this photo. It shows symmetry, which for me was like my 15 year old self facing my current, 21 year old self with the pond reflecting all that is around it, as I reflected.

I believe this reflects perfectly with what Vizcaya represents. We see that James Deering took different aspects of European culture and melded it together in one beautiful property. As mentioned during our time at Vizcaya, Deering unknowingly created the Miami style. Miami is well known for being a melting pot of cultures. It is also known for being flashy and – another of Deering’s hopes. This is shown by the sculpture of Dionysus, the god of wine and ecstasy.

Italia Spring 2020 As Text: Melanie Rodriguez

Melanie Rodriguez is a second-year, first-generation student at FIU’s Honors College pursuing a double major in English (Creative Writing) and Exceptional Student Education (Policy) with a certificate in Exile Studies. As a Global Learning Medallion student, Melanie was a part of FIU’s inaugural Millennium Fellowship cohort working to advance the United Nations’ 4th Sustainable Development Goal, Quality Education. Melanie currently works as Culture Shock Miami’s Program Coordinator at the Miami-Dade County’s Department of Cultural Affairs and is also Tutorial Coordinator for FIU’s Student Support Services Program. Her goal is to enact social change by combining her passion for the arts with her dedication to activism and youth education. 

“Yo vengo de todas partes y hacia todas partes voy” by Melanie Rodriguez of FIU at Vizcaya Museum & Gardens

Despite living only ten minutes away from the lavish estate, the first and only time I visited Vizcaya was over a decade ago. At eight years old, I remember coming away with the impression that this place was just too big for me in a variety of ways. I particularly recall being told the instruments in the music room were most likely not played much, which I could just never wrap my head around; after all, the thing I wanted most at the time was a piano. When I learned I would need to revisit this place, I was not particularly amused. I didn’t think there would be much to learn from what I remembered as some very rich dude’s exorbitant display of wealth. However, revisiting this place so many years later, I found myself questioning so many things that I never recalled from my first encounter with the property. It’s funny how much our memories can hinder our explorations.

While exploring the courtyard, I noticed children looking upwards in amazement as I had once done, locals knowing exactly which spots to pose in for their perfectly curated Instagram feed, and groups of tourists pulled like magnets towards the doors facing the water marveling at the rareness of a chilly Miami day. I gravitated towards a tour marker titled “The Work Force / La Fuerza Laboral” which explained the importance of Miami’s immigrant population, especially those from the Bahamas, in the construction of Vizcaya. Even though the construction required nearly a tenth of Miami’s population, this is one of the only markers of working people’s influence on the property; something that came as no surprise to me. Continuing the tour through the main house, my mind kept going back to that sign. Even though his story is quite interesting, I was far more invested in knowing more about the people who ran this massive property’s daily operations than James Deering’s fascination with yachts and luxuries for his vacation home. Maybe my eight-year old self’s jealously of an untouched music room was still looming around, but no one object captured my attention as much as that one tour sign.

That was until I entered the room with towering stained-glass doors looking out into the garden. My whole life has been shaped by these vitrales, and even though I have seen them so many times in so many places, this particular moment became very pivotal for me. I had recently come back from a trip in Washington D.C. where we visited the Belmont-Paul Women’s Equality Monument in which the door was framed by a vibrant vitral; at the moment I didn’t understand why, but I felt familiar there. Standing in front of these massive doors at Vizcaya, I think back to the vitral painting my father has gifted me and regret the many times I’ve told him he paints about Cuba too much. His memories have fostered my exploration; memories are the only way I am able understand why I don’t quite fit into the land I was born in. In that moment, with the colorful array of light shining through the window, I no longer felt Vizcaya was too big for me; instead I realize, it is made up of parts of me.

From the coral taken from my island for the columns of this man’s fascination to the palm trees towering above me to my father’s painting of a vitral looking out into El Cobre, I walk through life each day in the presence of my homeland, but each day I wonder if I will ever have the chance to meet the original. I feel angry at times that so much has been taken from us, much like the recognition taken from those immigrant workers who without them a man’s dream would not be in existence today, yet only small traces of their impact remain. I may not know where exactly I am supposed to call home, but I find comfort in knowing that the feeling of home surrounds me even in the places that were not meant for me but made of me.

Italia Spring 2020 As Texts: Alejandro Ruiz-Paiz

Hello, everyone! My name is Alejandro Ruiz-Paiz and I am currently a sophomore in Florida International University’s Honors College. I am a local “Miami-an”, as one could say, as I was born and raised in the incredible city of Miami, Florida. Despite my great love for Miami, and the fact that I have lived here for 19 years, it is very possible that a tourist that comes to visit the city for a weekend could potentially explore more parts, and learn more of the history of Miami, than I have in my entire span of living here. For this reason, I am truly looking forward to exploring new parts of Miami during this upcoming semester, as I am taking part in the Italia Study Abroad course at Florida International University. Throughout this semester we will learn about much of Italy’s rich culture and history in order to prepare for the study abroad trip this upcoming summer. In this class we will also dive into the city of Miami and visit different landmarks that have Italian influence and analyze how the cultures of Miami and Italy both have many similarities and differences.

I am majoring in Accounting, and minoring in Business Analytics, and hope to soon attain my Certified Public Accountant (CPA) license as I head into the public accounting industry. Some hobbies of mine include playing sports, especially baseball and volleyball, and going to the beach. All in all, I am excited to begin to learn about the Italian influence on the culture of Miami, and I want to thank you for reading!

Vizcaya as Text

“Italy First Hand” by Alejandro Ruiz-Paiz of FIU at Vizcaya Museum & Gardens

I have visited the incredible Vizcaya Museum & Gardens several times now, and I am truly always able to learn many new things about its rich history every time I attend. This past time that I visited Vizcaya was very different than the other times I had attended because of the fact that I was looking at everything in a new perspective. I was looking at everything knowing that I will soon be seeing the original forms of many of the incredible art works and styles of architecture that are located in Vizcaya, first hand in Italy. Knowing this, I truly did see many of the artifacts that are inspired by Italian works in a new light as I now had more excitement and curiosity to learn about their diverse history and meanings.

One of the main artworks that truly stood out to me during the visit was the sculpture of “The Spinario”, which is also known as the “Boy with Thorn.” “The Spinario” is located at the Uffizi Gallery in Rome, Italy and this is one of the potential art works that I may have the opportunity to see the original sculpture during my study abroad in Italy. I truly appreciated this sculpture because of its incredible historical meaning behind it. This sculpture is a representation of the incomparable love that roman citizens had for their country during the times of the Roman Empire. The boy with the thorn in his foot represents a boy who ran miles to warn his people about an approaching threat from an external army, and he didn’t stop to take out the thorn until he reached his destination and the task was complete. This is a symbol of how Roman citizens truly put the good of their country before themselves. Similarly, the painting of the city of Pompei truly was something that I found a great appreciation for because of the fact that I will be able to see this incredible city first hand. All in all, this was an incredible first experience in learning about how much influence Italy truly has on our culture as a whole, and I am excited to continue exploring more about the similarities that we share.

Italy Spring 2020 as Text: Mark Rodriguez

Vizcaya as Text

“Worlds Colliding” by Mark Rodriguez of FIU at Vizcaya Museums & Gardens

Vizcaya Museums & Gardens (Photo by Mark Rodriguez)

Visiting Vizcaya for the first time was a strange yet wonderfully immersive experience. I say strange not because of the architecture or the art within it but because of where I found it. I have lived in Miami for my whole life, (19 years) and I have never seen anything quite like this without having to take a painful 9-hour plane ride. The influence of European culture, especially its architecture is glaring upon arrival at Vizcaya. However, while many people see its connection to Italy, I associated Vizcaya to something completely different, Muslim architecture. More specifically, what I saw while visiting Marrakech this past winter, and Granada a couple years before then. What shocked me the most about these places was the beauty and attention to detail in everything they built. When we walked through the indoor courtyard at Vizcaya, I instantly had flashbacks of courtyards within the Alhambra and several other Riads I had the chance to visit abroad. The idea of having an open courtyard in the center of a home was something rather odd to me a just a few years ago but seeing it in Vizcaya now brought forth wonderful memories of things I saw thousands of miles away from there. Aside from the grand courtyard, the thing I personally enjoyed the most were the gardens. The juxtaposition I find in how unnatural man can make nature look by how they align trees or trim bushes and shape grass has always amazed me. These gardens, like the courtyard before it, took me back to Marrakech and the Medina. No matter where you looked everything was symmetrical, from the trees to the bushes around them. Seeing the gardens in Vizcaya embodied just that, from having grass grow in circles, to trees arranged in impossibly straight lines.

While I am sure my post is significantly different from the norm, seeing Vizcaya reminded me of something I saw, that at the time made me feel like I was in another world. Seeing some of that here in Miami was compelling and I thought that comparison would be worth the post.

France Spring 2020 As Texts: Connor Grim

” I’m not James Deering; An Introspection” by Connor Grim FIU at Vizcaya Museum and Gardens
As I sat down to write this assignment, looking for a picture I had taken to pair with whatever I was going to write, I realized that the foolishly silly Snapchat you see before you is the only evidence of me ever being at Vizcaya; this was the one and only thing I thought worthy enough to preserve forever as a photograph. Initially, I was dismayed, but as I reflected about my experience at Vizcaya and what the property meant to me, I gathered that this lion begging for reprieve was an accurate reflection of what truly stimulated me about the mansion: The ideal of taking something from another time, another context, and bending it, warping it to fit what appealed to me. It is evident Deering did much the same as he embarked on creating Vizcaya.

I mean, come on. Vizcaya is an ancient Mediterranean, humanistic French, gilded, seaside beacon to the gods built by a gay, racist inheritor from Maine. This man, James Deering, and his house were together as rococo as most of the rooms located within, and that’s where I found my connection to the manor. Its sporadic, half revivalist half paradigm-breaking style is what I could relate to the most. The utter subjectivity Deering had when it came to what he was working with, much less the practicals and moreso the themes associated with them, is something I enjoy seeking for myself; music, humor, architecture- in any realm.

I could see myself in James Deering, making many of the same moves he did. A painful attention to symmetry, “J’ai Dit” cresting the windows I would stand under, painted marble upon the walls: Truly, had I been in his position, I doubt our visions would look dissimilar. I would have adorned my halls with beasts that looked like pathetic excuses for lions, attempted to legitimize my presence in Miami as the second coming of Ponce De Leon, and maintained my garden meticulously.

However, I am not James Deering. I am blessed with being born with the privilege of regarding non-whites and non-males equal to myself (I find Deering’s anti-minority moat in equal aspects pitifully hilarious and sickening). Sure, I see myself rebuilding Vizcaya much the same should I have been in Deering’s shoes, but not in a vain attempt to sneer down at other wealthy, but less-wealthy, property owners. No, I would stand underneath “J’ai Dit” in irony, mock my lions, boast in my curator’s talents in picking artworks the significance of which I could never understand. I wouldn’t front. At least, I hope not. No, I believe my humor would remain much the same as “noo pwease noooo dont pwease no.”