By Klara Gomez
Compared to most European cities and other cities of the United States, Miami is a squealing newborn child that wants to get the world’s attention. The native people of South Florida knew how to coexist with the natural environment. The mentality of using the natural resources to provide the basic needs of a community was and still is the correct approach to living. A sturdy home does not need to be luxurious, it only needs to provide shelter.
When we think of Miami’s history we immediately rewind to the end of the 19th century when the founding fathers were betting on the land’s economic potential. Most of us don’t take into consideration the legacy left by the first inhabitants of South Florida—the Tequesta, and later the Miccosukee and the Seminole. Theirs is not a legacy set in stone, but much can be learned from their way of life.
Preserving Our History: Miami, The Newborn Child
Miami has a very limited grasp of the life it has lived and its future potential. As any newborn child, she might recall the kind faces, the familiar voices, the soft touch of hands that raise her up. But take these things away and you’ll find yourself in the presence of a wailing child who is afraid and lost. The things she’s come to know in her short lifetime provide a sense of belonging. One that must be restored.
The architectural history of South Florida is in peril. From Little Havana to Miami Beach, our 1920’s Mediterranean Revival, Art Deco, and MiMo buildings are being demolished left and right. These structures were built to satisfy the needs of a growing population. The developers of these historic buildings were no different than the ones who today are knocking them down to make room for new luxury homes and condos. Unlike our Native American inhabitants, these men and women are in it to make a profit. We can sit around and judge these real estate moguls all we want, but the truth is that whether we like it or not, we’ve all contributed to the problem because all of us have been conditioned to function under the expectations of this society. Our intentions might deviate from those of our ancestors, but some of us who are cognizant of how far we’ve strayed like to imagine ourselves walking down a long road towards finding balance. Meanwhile we remind ourselves that we’re leaving a trail of footprints over an over-paved roadway that might not be ideal but it’s ours to walk on and improve. Because maybe the only noble world-view stance we possess is the ability to protect the little history we have left. And no effort is too small.
Fighting for the preservation of an ancient Native American site seems more crucial than fighting for an Art Deco or a MiMo building. Of course, there is the obvious—an archeological treasure built over 2000 years ago is a rare find and should be deemed invaluable. But those of us who lived in Miami in 1999 and followed the Miami Circle story closely understood that it was more than that. There was an overflowing sense of righteousness that contributed to saving the Miami Circle. It was that collective reverence that brought protesters of all ages and walks of life to the shore of Biscayne Bay. Maybe it was the realization that the Native American never took more than he needed from the earth, therefore, whatever he left behind must have been extremely important to his way of life. Maybe it was the understanding that in a city like Miami the Native American way of life was drowned by the noise of a multicultural exchange, and we had lost touch with the noble world-view stance of the American Indian. A noble stance we’ve always admired but have failed to adapt.
I still remember when nearly twenty years ago a mandated archeological field survey on Brickell Avenue brought the plans for a new luxury building to an end. Michael Baumann, one of the most prominent developers in the area, had to sell the land he’d just purchased to the City of Miami after archeologists unearthed what is now known as the Miami Circle, a Tequesta sacred site. There was a strong opposition to the idea of relocating the Miami Circle. The news covered the story day in and day out, and most people agreed that the historical site needed to be preserved in its original location.
Klara Gomez comes from a long tradition of musicians. She began taking piano lessons at age four, composed her first piano piece at age eight, and received her B.M. in Classical Piano Performance from the University of Miami in her mid-twenties. Shortly after, she worked as Managing Editor for a local music publishing company. The process of going from pure inspiration to a palpable, finalized product seemed so mesmerizing that she began experimenting with songwriting. Her first attempt got her published and gave her the idea to expand her creative outlet to include fiction writing. Her first short stories and vignettes were inspired by classical compositions.
Klara Gomez lives in Miami Beach, where she teaches, concertizes, and directs a large children's choir. Her first novel, The Ladder of Suspiros, is finished and ready to find a home. Meanwhile she is busy working on her second novel. To learn more, please visit Klara Gomez's blog: http://www.klaragomez.com/#!blank-6/czwt
Above Photo: In spite of great opposition from neighbors and preservationists, Tropicair (880 71Street, Miami Beach, Florida) was demolished on August 26, 2016. The owner of the property was never fined for neglecting this historic hotel.
Top Left: A worker assesses what's left of a Spanish Revival house in the process of being demolished. This house once stood on Alton Road in North Beach.
Bottom Left: Where the construction tarp appears once stood a building identical to the one in the picture. These buildings are great examples of the Spanish Revival architecture of the 1920's. This photo was taken on 7th Street, Little Havana, while driving to work.