writ­ten by Marie Ste­pha­nie Chancy

South Flo­ri­da is a trans­na­tio­nal space whe­re dif­fe­rent cul­tures come tog­e­ther to crea­te some­thing new. It is a place whe­re a young émi­g­ré from Pol­and hap­pen­ed upon the repre­sen­ta­ti­on of a sacred Polish reli­gious icon in front of a Hai­ti­an restau­rant. In its Miami loca­ti­on the icon sym­bo­li­zed both the Polish Vir­gin of Cze­s­tocho­wa and the Hai­ti­an Vodou lwa Ezi­li Dan­tor. The blen­ding of the­se figu­res is cha­rac­te­ristic of the Creo­liza­ti­on that hap­pens not just in South Flo­ri­da but all over the Carib­be­an and Latin Ame­ri­ca. Miami Creo­liza­ti­on is fur­ther embo­di­ed in the botá­ni­ca store­fronts fea­tured in this exhi­bi­ti­on. Botá­ni­cas, neigh­bor­hood spi­ri­tu­al stores, can be found in the distinc­ti­ve Miami neigh­bor­hood known as Litt­le Hai­ti. The­se botá­ni­cas are by-and-lar­ge a Miami crea­ti­on illus­t­ra­ting the city’s diver­si­ty. Within a botá­ni­ca one finds charms for luck, employ­ment, love and money, along­side her­bal reme­dies and poti­ons. Side-by-side on the crow­ded shel­ves are sta­tu­es of Catho­lic Saints, figu­res from such Afro-des­cen­ded reli­gi­ons as Vodou and San­te­ría, and Hin­di repre­sen­ta­ti­ons. With names such as St. Michel Super Bota­ni­ca and St. Nico­las Bota­ni­ca the­se neigh­bor­hood-cen­tric stores evi­dence the dia­spo­ric natu­re of Miami’s popu­la­ti­on who beco­me Ame­ri­cans while kee­ping the cul­tu­re and tra­di­ti­ons of their for­mer home­land. This cul­tu­ral dua­li­ty is uni­ver­sal to immi­grants world­wi­de and a signi­fi­cant part of the iden­ti­ties they for­ge. The botá­ni­cas and their exte­ri­or walls deco­ra­ted with Catho­lic Saints and Vodou sym­bols show the ever-shif­ting natu­re of a city like Miami. The botá­ni­cas reflect the city’s con­ti­nuing flux in one other way. Many now stand emp­ty, their colorful murals remo­ved and their win­dows fil­led with For Lea­se signs. The fate of St. Nico­las Bota­ni­ca. Once more the city is chan­ging this time becau­se of gen­tri­fi­ca­ti­on and the influx of a new population.