During Spring 2022, forty years after artist Xavier Cortada graduated from Miami Senior High School, he brought The Underwater to his alma mater.

Located in the Little Havana neighborhood, the school was founded in 1903 and is the oldest high school in Miami-Dade County. Since the late 1960s, the high school has traditionally had a Cuban-American majority. Today, a growing number of students are of Central American descent, reflecting demographic changes in Little Havana since the 1990s.

artist's message

Forty years ago I graduated from this high school. I’m a proud member of the Miami High Class of 1982 and the Miami High family. Ours is the first school established in Miami Dade County. It has a rich, beautiful history that has grown alongside our city. So many people, many of them immigrants or, like me, sons of refugees, walked these halls as they journeyed to a better future. Today’s students continue on that path of learning as they grow to become our future leaders, the future of Miami.  But these students also have a tremendous challenge.

We spend our lives working to deliver them a better tomorrow, a promising education, family, and career. However, I worry about what Miami’s future is going to look like 40 years from now when students here now reach my age. And what future will the class of 2062 inherit from the class of 2022?

Like our school, most of our homes and communities were built in flat Miami at a time when no one expected that Miami’s geography and geology would make its residents so vulnerable to the rising seas. By the time I was in high school, our society knew that polluting carbon into the atmosphere would warm our planet, cause polar glaciers to melt and raise our seas. Unfortunately, in these past 40 years little has been done to truly tackle the amount of carbon we as a society pump in the atmosphere. And that has to stop.

I developed The Underwater, this participatory art project, to help us better understand our vulnerability to global climate change and sea level rise and to give us the tools so that we could take action.

We’ve shared our knowledge with all the science students of this school and they’re sharing them with you and in hopes that they will inspire you to learn more about the problems facing us. The challenges before us are great, but so are our students.

The class of 2022 gives me hope. I know they will use their intellect, their ingenuity, their passion and their love –their empathy– for one another, to deliver a brighter future. The actions they lead us in taking today will lessen the suffering that would otherwise be endured by their children (your grandchildren) and the children of the class of 2062.

Let’s learn together and work together for the betterment of our community.