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Fool's Gold

Newmont Mining, Machu Picchu and the Museum of Nature & Science make strange bedfellows.

DMNS President and CEO Raylene Decatur, who recently announced plans to leave the museum in March to spend more time with her kids, responded to Concerned Chicano's claims by citing various museum efforts to reach out to the Latino community, such as programs targeted at at-risk kids and science classes offered in Spanish. She concluded her e-mail by saying that "employment at the Denver Museum of Nature & Science is just as diverse as our many exhibits. Nearly 30 percent of the employees here identify themselves as Hispanic, Native American, Asian, Black or another race."

Concerned Chicano fired back, "Your statistic of 30 percent of the museum employees identifying themselves as of color or culture failed to mention that of the 30 percent, 98.9 percent work in the service side of the museum."

In fact, the lead museum staff member on Machu Picchu is not Latina, though her co-curator at Yale University, which is sponsoring the traveling exhibit, is Peruvian. The DMNS also collaborated on the exhibit with Marita Landaveri-Porturas, the consul general of Peru in Denver.

"[Newmont] does a lot of work on cultural things like this, and we're happy they do," says Landaveri-Porturas. "Because of their support and help from other corporations, we were able to bring the exhibit here. Any spill is terrible, but they have worked very closely with the community, and I hear the cleanup is going very well."

The museum will run ads for the exhibit on the Univision network as well as in Latino newspapers, and it also will serve Peruvian food and drinks in its cafeteria and carry Peruvian books in its gift shop. "We'll have at least one bilingual volunteer or staff member available during the exhibit to translate, and we'll have a guide written in Spanish," Taylor adds.

Concerned Chicano is well aware of those plans but says they are a marketing ploy to attract more visitors rather than a real attempt at outreach. "They don't look at my people as a culture, but as numbers, as dollars coming in the door." The concerned source says that the fact that a mining company is sponsoring the museum's first major Latin American exhibit since 1991's AZTEC is even more disheartening.

And this probably won't be the last time Newmont donates to the museum. "We're the largest employer of indigenous people in Australia, so if they ever do an exhibit on Australia," Hock says, "we'd be interested in working with them."

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