Hispanic Heritage Month: Meet Maria

Meet Maria Mazin Perez Sandi, the Denver Museum of Nature & Science’s Director of Experiences & Partnerships

Written and produced by: Maurilio Tapia

September 15 marks the beginning of #HispanicHeritageMonth! In celebration, we'd like to highlight one of many stories to honor the critical contributions that people of Hispanic/Latino heritage make to our Museum. 

Originally from Mexico, Maria Mazin Perez Sandi is a Director of Experiences & Partnerships at the Denver Museum of Nature & Science. In her role, she brings her Hispanic heritage into how she works with others, taking a lead on the vision and implementation of the Museum’s audience experiences. As a director, Maria also builds relationships and fosters partnerships with the community, including the Hispanic community, integrating their voices into the Museum’s work.

Today, we ask her questions about herself and her relationship with Hispanic Heritage Month.

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 Maria at Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument in New Mexico with her husband, Izzy. (Credit/Maria Mazin Perez Sandi)

Explain what you do as a Director of Experiences & Partnerships. 

As a Director of Experiences and Partnerships, I lead our team in the visioning, creative direction, planning and implementation of the Museum’s audience experiences. I help ensure that we are grounded in our strategic objectives, mission, vision and values. A big element of my role is to foster partnerships with our community and integrate community voices in the work that we do. 

As you know, being Hispanic encompasses various countries and cultures. What culture and background do you come from? How is it meaningful to you? 

I’m from Mexico, a country with a rich culture shaped by Indigenous/Native American and Western civilizations. Elements of our culture go back thousands of years to the Olmecs, Mayas, Aztecs and other indigenous groups and evolved into their own after processes of colonization and independence. It’s meaningful to me to carry a culture that reflects this complex history, that shows up in our customs, our values, our food and even in some of the Spanish that we speak today.

Watch the animated music video for "Join the Celebración" - an original song that celebrates Hispanic Heritage Month through icons, artists and heroes like Frida Kahlo, Celia Cruz and more!

Why is it important to celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month?

Hopefully it highlights the vast cultural richness and diversity of Hispanics in this country and invites people to reflect on the contributions we have made and continue to make.

How has your experience as a Hispanic/Latina woman impacted your work?

I think I bring values that come from my Hispanic heritage into how I work with others. Being Latina, and how I’m perceived as such, shapes how I experience the world, in both positive and not so positive ways. I think that being aware of how others may experience the world due to their race or ethnicity, and responding to that with empathy is good practice in general.

What are you passionate about, personally and/or professionally?  

Professionally, I’m passionate about how science can be accessible, about how we can create a welcoming and inclusive space to participate in scientific practice and discourse. I also love to nerd out on leadership practices, to learn how we can foster highly engaged teams that leverage each other's talents and diverse perspectives. Personally, I’m passionate about cooking/eating, travel, books and insects!

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Maria enjoying a day at City Park in Denver, CO. (Credit/Maria Mazin Perez Sandi)

Who has been an inspirational Hispanic/Latin@ figure in your life? 

It’s hard to pick, but for the past few years, I’d say all the Latinos who get up every day to pick our produce on farms, cook our meals and wash our dishes in restaurants, build our buildings and clean our public spaces.

Are you working on any current projects that you would like to highlight?

One project that I am really proud of is related to our bilingual programs. Our awesome team of educators and program coordinators are working to figure out how we can deliver programs for English and Spanish speaking students so that everyone can have one equitable, quality learning experience.

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