José F. Grave de Peralta
of the Miami River
The Miami skyline depicted in this original oil painting commissioned by the law firm of Meland, Russin, Hellinger & Budwick in 2006 is a composite of “on-site” sketches drawn from different locations along the Miami River and of my own readings and reflections on this subject. From left to right, my vision begins at the Seybold Canal
and travels downriver. The Scottish Rite Masonic Temple is featured prominently, with its bold pyramid structure on the top. On the far right of the mural, the Miami River passes under Brickell Bridge by the Miami Circle, as it merges with the waters of Biscayne Bay.
The figures in the foreground are those of Spanish explorer Juan Ponce de León and two Tequesta Indian youths, as they might have looked when the conquistador first came to these shores with his galleons and horses in July 1513, in search of the mythic Fountain of Youth. De León kneels in reverence, holding a scroll with painted emblems of the fountain and of Our Lady of Loreto, after whom an early Spanish mission was
named which stood where the Hyatt Hotel is located today.
Other symbolic details in the mural include a manatee, a Jewish synagogue, a lobster fishery, and a group of figures conducting a baptism ceremony in the River. The Tequesta youth presenting a conch shell to the European explorer stands both as a living symbol of this land’s welcome to all newcomers and my interpretation of the
old and new “Mayaimi” as a place of shelter and life.