Desecration by defecation? Some say sacred Miami site has gone to the dogs

MIAMI – One dog. Two dogs. Three dogs. They kept coming, with their owners in tow.

“It is so disrespectful that I cry every day," said Catherine Hummingbird Ramirez, a Carib Tribal Queen. 

If Ramirez had it her way, those pet owners would have to find another place for their dogs to relieve themselves.

”It is not a dog park,” Ramirez said.  

For her, Brickell Point, at the mouth of the Miami River, just off Brickell Avenue is a spiritual place.

”The ancestors—they are here," Ramirez said, nearly in tears. "There's no rest for them."

What archeologists discovered on the 2-acre site in the late 90s dates back nearly 2,000 years to the native Tequesta people.

"All the native people that [came] down the river would trade right over there,” Ramirez said pointing to a cul-de-sac filled with parked Uber and Lyft vehicles.

Ramirez was part of the decade-long effort to preserve the site, including what has come to be known as, The Miami Circle. The Circle has been designated a National Historic Landmark.

Ramirez performs a ceremony at The Circle every Tuesday afternoon. "People come, they can sit down, they can mediate because it's a place of that," she said.  

And yet, a dog water fountain has been installed, along with pet waste stations.

"It's literally desecrating a spiritual, holy land," said Marlon Moore. He’s attended several of Ramirez’s ceremonies.

"It's just so important that we save it, that we honor it, and that we don't allow people to just come and do whatever," Moore said.

The significance was not lost on Horacio Aguirre. Aguirre chairs the Miami River Commission which manages the site.

"This is a burial ground,” Aguirre said. “This is a cemetery. It must be sacred. It must be respected."

The Circle is now shadowed by its neighbor, Icon Brickell and other buildings full of people and their pets.

"And that's a wonderful thing, except that nobody planned for the pets to go and do their business,” said Aguirre. “The pet owners think that the Miami Circle is like any other green space, just like any other city municipal park."

Aguirre said there is a plan in place to correct that oversight. Signage that was once in place will be erected to draw attention to the sacredness of the site. 

A representative with the Florida Department of State’s Division of Historical Resources said the department maintains an excellent partnership with the Miami River Commission.

A spokesperson said the department has been working with the Commission and “consulting with representatives of the community on proposed upgrades to make improvements at the site as well as working to receive the required approvals from Miami’s Historic and Environmental Preservation Board. The upgrades include landscaping improvements and railings to protect the archeological circle.”

Aguirre said a fence is expected to be put up around the Circle as early as late spring. He said the dogs aren’t going anywhere, and will still be allowed on the perimeter of the grounds.

"It's meant to be enjoyed, but meant to be respected, as well," Aguirre said.

"You don't go and desecrate native sites,” said Ramirez. “You don't."

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