A young woman wearing a white shirt in the forefront of a colorful mural

‘Finding my home’: Mural features student poem about move to Miami

What does it mean to find home in a new country and a new language? That’s the inspiration behind a massive new mural in Miami Beach – created by a Spanish art collective known for its vibrant designs and unconventional canvases.

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What does it mean to call a place a home, to grow roots in two countries and two languages?

What are the feelings, smells or sights one has to experience before they feel like they belong, whether in a place they’ve been their whole life or somewhere they’ve just arrived?

The questions and emotions are central to the poem written by Miami Beach Senior High School student Valentina Mena — one that details the 16-year-old sophomore’s experience of moving from Villa María, Argentina, to Miami, last year. Lines from the poem are now featured on a new mural outside the school.

“This is my first place in a new reality, where it received me but made me miss my old me,” the poem begins. “While time passes it feels alright. Afternoons are humid and sun hits my skin. Riding my bike, watching the green in the neighborhood…the blue reflected in the ocean.”

Valentina’s poem — the first she’s ever written — is at the core of a collaborative project between O, Miami, a nonprofit organization that builds community through poetry, and Boa Mistura, a Madrid-based art collective that travels the world transforming blank walls and alleyways into art.

Stretched across a pair of large water tanks overlooking Valentina’s high school is a single line from the poem written in both English and Spanish, her native language.

One tank reads, “finding my home in every voice that I hear,” and the other hay un hogar en cada voz que escucho.

People wearing white shirts and painting

Students from Miami Beach Senior High School help paint a massive new mural on a pair of 3 million-gallon water tanks overlooking the school. The mural, titled "My Home, Mi Hogar" was designed by the artist collective Boa Mistura and inspired by a poem written by a Beach High student.


Alie Skowronski/Miami Herald

“This is like a miracle,” Valentina said of seeing her words on the mural. It’s like a “light in my path to know…what should I do in my future.”

The project, “My Home, Mi Hogar,” was unveiled Friday during a celebration that welcomed the O, Miami and Boa Mistura teams, along with elected officials and Miami Beach Senior High students. 

Years in the making

The idea for the collaboration between O, Miami and Boa Mistura began years ago, Scott Cunningham said Friday. While visiting Madrid, the O, Miami founder saw a short poem stenciled on the street and soon learned the group behind the effort was Boa Mistura.

The group’s work “made space for people to be authors of their own public artwork,” he said. The mission resonated with O, Miami. So when the City of Miami Beach gave the nonprofit the opportunity to work with the water tanks, “we immediately thought of Boa Mistura,” Cunningham said.

Once the collaboration was underway, O, Miami hosted a series of poetry workshops for students at the high school and encouraged them to describe what Miami meant to them. For Valentina, the words came naturally.

“I’m living the music of them and recording moments, so I won’t forget…but sometimes it’s hard to adapt,” the poem says. “But people here feels like a family’s part, finding home in every voice that I hear.”

Out of the more than 200 poems written by students, Boa Mistura chose Valentina’s. It was that one line — “finding my home in every voice that I hear” — that jumped out to the artists and inspired the mural.

Two men in colorful shirts standing infront of color murals

The Spanish art collective Boa Mistura chose a line from a poem written by Beach High student Valentina Mena to be the inspiration for their latest public mural, "My Home, Mi Hogar."Artists Pablo Ferreiro, Juan Jaume and other members of Boa Mistura painted the massive piece alongside students from Beach High.


Chantal Lawrie/Courtesy O, Miami

The designers behind the mural, Pablo Ferriero and Juan Jaume, said the poem is a celebration of the immigrant experience in Miami, or the “migrant essence of Miami.”

As artists who spend much of the year traveling, the message of finding home wherever they go resonated.

“In the poem, she expresses with this delicate balance of melancholy but optimism at the same time, this sense of being new to a strange place [and] a place where you don’t naturally belong,” Ferriero said. “But you’re getting used to [living] in this new place, right?”

Hope for home

As with other projects, Boa Mistura invited Beach High students to participate in painting the mural. Last month, students from all grades contributed to the project’s final design by layering coat after coat of vibrant color — a highlight for Valentina.

Now, after about three weeks, the poem’s stanza and swaths of purple, green, blue and red hues cover the two water tanks and overlook the school’s football field. The words, painted white, overlay fragments of letters from “home” and “hogar,” creating a seemingly abstract design.

For Valentina, though, perhaps the most important message from the poem is about hope, “hope for what I was not seeing but tried to,” she said. “Hope to heal with time [and] hope to find a community that understands me. Hope for home.”

That’s why, seeing both home and hogar in the same place, in both languages, is something she’ll never forget: “I will always keep that in my heart for the rest of my life.”

close up of two girls wearing white shirts and blue gloves looking up and painting

Beach High sophomore Valentina Mena paints a mural inspired by a poem she wrote. The finished mural towers over the school's football field, reading "finding a home in every voice that I hear" and "hay un hogar en cada voz que escucho".


Alie Skowronski/Miami Herald

This story was lightly edited and condensed for clarity. An earlier version of this story appeared on WLRN. With reporting by WLRN Education Reporter Kate Payne and Miami Herald K-12 Education Reporter Sommer Brugal. 
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