Downtown Miami

I have been to Miami many times, but I had never been a tourist in Miami. That changed on Presidents Day. My goal is to discover Miami from a historical, chronological viewpoint. This meant starting from the mouth of Mayaimi river (now obviously Miami) where the Tequesta tribe lived. Nowadays that is the heart of old downtown, a gritty area dominated by 80’s vintage office and apartment buildings.

An oasis in this concrete jungle is the Gesú church. This beautiful Jesuit church sits where the original Jesuit mission was. It is the oldest in South Florida and is certainly worth the visit. Other spots to explore are Freedom tower, modeled after the Giralda, the old minaret, now bell tower of Seville’s Cathedral. It used to house the Miami News, but is now part of Miami-Dade College.

The main tourist trap, I mean attraction, is the Bayside Marina, mall, restaurants, etc. It is a sprawling, generic, commercial area, full of tourists, obviously. This is the spot to have a mediocre, overpriced meal, to go on a celebrity homes cruise, a motorboat cruise, or just a regular old “booze” cruise.

The American Airlines Arena, home of the Miami Heat, is also downtown, as is the Perez Art Museum if you are into Contemporary Art, the History Miami Museum, etc. Stay tuned for more chapters as we continue to explore Miami, layer by layer!

Year one Ph.D.: Check

Well, that wraps up the first year of my Ph.D. program and of my course work. Now I “only” have to read until my eyes bleed for my exams next Spring. This semester was overall much better than the Winter term. I took three courses: Early Modern Spanish Women Writers, with Rosa Perelmuter – a luminary in the field, and an Independent Study on Medieval Narratives with the iconic Prof. Domínguez. For my third course I took 18th Century Spanish Lit. with Irene Gómez-Castellano – and it has changed my life. Not only did I learn about the Enlightenment (something that had been in the back of my mind since I read Voltaire’s Candide at the American School in London, and then reread often) and the Romantics, but I discovered Padre Isla, a fairly unknown Jesuit writer who wrote the “best seller” of the 18th Century: Fray Gerundio de Campazas. I also taught two sections of Spanish 203, an intermediate level class. I loved it! I had great kids and we had a great time, including the cockroach that climbed up a girl’s dress. Pobre Raquel!
The end of the term was extremely stressful. One is normally 100% occupied with schoolwork during the year, so having to take two exams, write three twenty page essays, give and correct about forty exams, plus all the end of the year wrap up stuff was beyond hectic. For a week I did not work out or shave! I hope that the first year of the Ph.D. program is the baptism by fire test, that it is the hardest to juggle all the work, because the end was no fun.
But it is over and with very positive results. Most importantly my dissertation seems to be coming into focus, writing about Padre Isla. My secondary/complementary writing list will be about Medieval satire with Prof, Domínguez and my Transatlantic list will be Colonial lit. with Rosa Perelmuter. This means that I have to come up with six reading lists. A primary reading list of twenty books for each list and about thirty secondary/theoretical lists for each topic. Total: give or take 150 books that I have to learn by next Spring to pass my exams, Gadzooks! Yikes!
Taking only three classes, I had time to volunteer at the Ronald McDonald House of Chapel Hill on Monday nights, and I worked at the Clinical Skills Center at the UNC Hospitals

teaching medical students Spanish. Both of these side ventures are a lot of fun and very rewarding and very much needed to clear my head and do something else for a while that is not just studying.
Conclusion: Overall it has been an incredible year and I have learnt much more than I ever expected or hoped. I’ve met some very interesting people, discovered a new town, been more culturally active than I expected, forged some nice relationships and I am slowly rebuilding my life. I’m very happy to be doing this, I love UNC and Chapel Hill.