Hispanic Heritage Month Heroes: Marcela Denis-Perez
Like a good neighbor, MIA Terminal Operations Chief helps fellow South Americans get home during the pandemic
In the early stages of the pandemic, last March, MIA Terminal Operations Chief and Uruguay native Marcela Denis-Perez discovered that a group of approximately 40 passengers from her neighboring country of Argentina were stranded at the airport after their return flight had suddenly been canceled due to the pandemic. The group, which included three families with young children and one couple with health issues, had nowhere to go but MIA’s Concourse J and very little money while they waited for some way back home.
Marcela tried to help the couple with health issues book seats on the last flight to Argentina the next day, but that flight was already full. Fortunately, the couple had a friend who lived in Miami, and Marcela was able to get them in contact with him so he could take them in.
She then moved on to help the rest of the group by contacting the Argentina consulate in Miami to arrange hotel accommodations for them, with the help of the airport’s Protocol and International Affairs Division. She ensured that the passengers had food and beverages while they waited in the terminal and coordinated with MIA’s Landside Division to get them transportation to their hotels. After weeks of keeping in contact with them, Marcela got to see her fellow South Americans board a humanitarian flight to Argentina arranged by the consulate.
“It was heartwarming to see so many grateful faces,” says Marcela. “In times of uncertainty, it makes me happy to reunite passengers with their loved ones back home.”
This is just one example of the welcoming attitude Marcela says she learned from the country where she was raised. She shares more in this week’s Hispanic Heritage Month Hero profile.
How long have you been at MIA?
I started working at MIA in February 2018.
What is your current role at MIA?
I am the Terminal Operations Chief. My role is to oversee the daily operations in the terminal and to manage a group of 142 employees who make our operations shine for the passengers.
What do you like most about your job?
My goal is to make sure that all visitors who come to MIA, either flying in or out or just meeting someone, is welcomed to the airport and have a pleasant experience.
What are some of your biggest career accomplishments?
My aviation career started 30 years ago when I began working for United Airlines in Washington-Dulles Airport, three years after I migrated from Uruguay to the U.S. in 1988. While I was going to school and getting my degrees, I always dreamed about being part of the MIA team, to be able to assist travelers and their families in making a smooth transition through this wonderful city. In 2018, my dream materialized and now, I am very proud to be part of a prestigious management group at Miami International Airport and in Miami Dade County.
What makes you most proud of your Uruguayan heritage?
Uruguay is the third-smallest country in South America with only 68,037 square miles and a little more than 3,000,000 inhabitants. However, Uruguayans are hard workers with big hearts and a welcoming attitude. I am proud of the country where my parents raised me and taught me how to be a hard worker, resilient, and open to help others.
How does it feel to be recognized during Hispanic Heritage Month?
It is an honor to be recognized during Hispanic Heritage Month and to represent the Uruguayan community.