TU students taking the interdisciplinary class “The Roots of Hamilton: Relics of Resistance in the Black Atlantic World” had the chance to travel to St. Croix. They were able to visit Alexander Hamilton’s boyhood home and see different sites of enslavement and freedom in the Caribbean. Sophomore organizational studies major and history and anthropology minor, Jenna K. Lazenby shares her experience on the first two days of the trip.
The first two days of travel were hectic. For myself personally, I had to checkout of my dorm and Uber to the airport; then once at the airport I had to shift things around in my checked bag, so it would meet the minimum weight of 50 pounds. Once we had gotten through TSA, we were headed to the gate ready to board the plane, or so we thought. Our plane was almost immediately delayed twice, once for 30 minutes due to “routine maintenance,” which eventually led to a cancelled flight. After many phone calls, and some very stern looks, our flight was rescheduled. Then we had time to kill and lunch to grab before catching our next flight. After flying from TUL to DFW, we had to sprint through the airport to catch the tram to get to our connecting flight, only to then sit on the tarmac for 1 hour and 45 minutes. It was at that moment that we realized we would be spending the night in Miami, Florida.
Once we reached Miami, we searched for our checked bags, only to be told it could take 2-8 hours to locate our bags. At this point we decided to just leave the airport without our bags, check into our hotel, and get dinner. We went out to dinner at La Carreta, a Cuban restaurant located in a neighborhood known as Little Havana in Miami. La Carreta has one of the best salmon dishes I have had stateside. Eating dinner in Little Havana was an interesting experience.
The restaurant had this feeling of being surrounded by family even though we were strangers.
At the start of the trip, my classmates and I hadn’t formed many connections, but sitting down for dinner together after that terrible flight experience, we started to feel like a family. From past experiences with my Cuban friends, I know how important family is to Cuban culture, so being surrounded by my classmates talking and laughing at La Carreta, it felt like having dinner in a Cuban household. This is something that I noticed throughout Little Havana; the restaurant felt like home, and you could really feel the history and community within the walls of this space.
After having a great night’s sleep, and enjoying the beautiful view that morning, we headed to Little Haiti to explore the local Haitian marketplace and cultural center. Both the cultural center and marketplace contained beautiful artwork created by Haitian artists that showcased their home country in a beautiful and refreshing light. After touring the art gallery, we decided to stay in Little Haiti and eat at a Haitian restaurant, Piman Bouk, which had delicious Haitian cuisine, and the ox tail easily became my favorite dish. We then caught a shuttle from Little Haiti to downtown Miami, and I could quickly see the difference between the two neighborhoods. In Little Haiti you could sense the strong community and feeling of togetherness, but downtown felt very plastic and built to attract tourists. Little Haiti was beautiful and full of culture, and you could feel history within the artwork and the marketplace.
However, just like in Little Havana, there was also a sense of sadness. The communities looked worn down and the buildings were dilapidated, but then a quick bus ride over to Biscayne Downtown, and you see new condos, Targets, and Starbucks. It made me a little upset, because there was such rich culture and history within Little Haiti and Little Havana, but the communities are being left behind or being bought up and gentrified. I knew that Miami was a huge hub for Caribbean peoples, but going into Little Haiti and Little Havana and experiencing the sights and sounds, these communities came alive for me. Over the parts of Miami that we covered, you could see the blend of the past and present, and that changed my perspective. I always think of Miami as a tourist hangout, and primarily a place of refuge for Spanish Caribbean individuals, but walking around the city I was able to see that it is actually a cultural hub for many different communities coming together, including French and Spanish-speaking individuals.
We walked down Biscayne to get a quick view of the ocean before rushing back to the hotel to grab our bags and hop on a shuttle to the airport. After a slightly difficult time getting through TSA, we grabbed food from surrounding restaurants and boarded the plane. The plane ride was smooth, and flying into a setting sun looked gorgeous from my window seat. As we flew closer to St. Croix I could see the other U.S. Virgin Islands of St. Thomas and St. John, which looked bright with lights compared to St. Croix. Once we stepped foot on the island, I instantly fell in love! The thick warm air clung to my body and felt like being back home in Houston. Seeing the St. Croix airport staff and all the beautiful Black Crucian people for the first time made me happy to not be the minority in a room for once. This happiness further continued when most of our bags arrived after receiving American Airlines notifications saying our bags had been left in Miami. I am ready to explore the island, create lasting memories, and learn more about Crucian culture and history.