In this episode of Fresh Art’s Fall 2020 Student Edition, University of Miami students Diana Borras and Kurt Gessler discover sacred land hiding in plain sight at the heart of Brickell, Miami’s business district. Carib tribal queen Catherine Hummingbird Ramirez has come to meet them at the Native American site known as the Miami Circle, and she’s ready to share her concerns about encroaching urban development.
The Miami Circle was discovered in 1998, when an archaeological investigation at the mouth of the Miami River found evidence of a 2,000 year-old indigenous community on land once occupied by the Brickell Point Apartments. The Tequesta site consists of a circle over 35 feet in diameter with about 20 basins and hundreds of smaller postholes.
Many consider the Miami Circle a North American “Stonehenge.” Katherine Stevenson, a representative of the U.S. National Park Service, noted in a 1999 hearing on the disposition of the land, that, “The Tequesta was one of the earliest groups to establish permanent villages in southeast Florida [and] the Miami Circle site might possibly have served as the center of religious, trading and political activity.” Prior to its discovery, indigenous technology had kept the landmark eighty-five percent intact, with artifacts such as bones and ceramics conserved beneath the surface, despite the building and demolishing that had taken place in the area.
In the late 1990s, archeologists, historians, preservationists, cultural activists, and Miami’s mayor joined forces in the “Save the Circle” campaign that wrested control of the sacred land from ambitious developers, establishing the Circle as part of the National Park system. Miami-based Native American Catherine Hummingbird Ramirez was among those who challenged the downtown developers. At the time of the February 2020 interview featured in this episode, Ramirez was Miami Circle’s most devoted protector, speaking to visitors about Tequesta history and performing sacred rituals at the site.
Producers: Diana Borras and Kurt Gessler/Miami Moves Me, Jahné King/FreshArtINTL
Sound Editor: Anamnesis Audio
Feature Photography: Diana Borras
Fall 2020 Student Edition
In January 2020, Fresh Art founder Cathy Byrd began to introduce podcasting and South Florida’s cultural landscape to a small group of students at the University of Miami. They explored the city to record and produce their own podcast: Miami Moves Me. At mid-semester, field expeditions came to an abrupt halt and classes went online due to the pandemic. UM podcasters met the challenge—producing eighteen episodes based on their research, field recordings, and interviews. Fresh Art’s Giselle Heraux and Jahné King introduce our Fall 2020 Student Edition, with six stories from the Miami Moves Me archive.
Miami Moves Me creators: Diana Borras, Gretchell Cano, Luz Estrella Cruz, Kurt Gessler, Melissa Huberman, Kristian Kranz, Reese McMichael, Jonathan Raskauskas, Ben Vinarski